In the first of this two-part series, the authors define waiting lists, review the waiting list situation in Canada, discuss factors affecting such lists, outline their desired characteristics and describe the analysis and use of waiting list data.
The manner in which lists are compiled results in significant differences which makes the meaning of waiting lists difficult to determine. From the literature reviewed and interviews with various health service executives, the authors show that waiting lists, as compiled today, are not a valid and reliable measure of the extent of unmet demands for hospital care.
In Part II, which will be published in the next issue of FORUM, the authors will present the results of an exploratory survey done to determine how waiting lists and times are presently being compiled and used in secondary and tertiary hospitals. These findings will be summarized and compared to the desired characteristics and uses of a waiting list as presented in Part I.