Impact of Hospital Waiting List Data Collection and Publication

24 Meitheamh 2024

Tá leagan Gaeilge den mhír seo ar fáil anseo.

This report explores the impact of collecting, collating, and publishing data on hospital waiting lists in Ireland. Specifically, it focuses on the Open Data report for Inpatient and Outpatient Consultant-Led Waiting Lists January 2019 - March 2021 managed by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). The report highlights the importance of this data for transparency, informed decision-making, and potential improvements in healthcare delivery. The NTPF plays a crucial role in the Irish healthcare system by collecting and publishing data on waiting lists for various hospital services, including Inpatient and Outpatient Consultant-Led Clinics. This report focuses on the Open Data aspect of this initiative, which provides readily accessible information on the number of people waiting for first appointments across different time bands.

Data Collection and Transparency

The NTPF ensures the accuracy and integrity of waiting list data through collaboration with individual public hospitals. This transparency allows the public, policymakers, and healthcare professionals to:

  1. Understand the current state of inpatient and outpatient waiting lists across the country.
  2. Identify areas with potential bottlenecks or resource constraints.
  3. Track trends and monitor progress over time.

Informed Decision-Making

Open access to waiting list data empowers various stakeholders to make informed decisions:

  • Policymakers can allocate resources and implement targeted interventions to address wait-list issues.
  • Hospitals can identify areas for improvement within their facilities and optimise service delivery.
  • Patients can gain insights into waiting lists and make informed choices about their healthcare needs.

Potential Improvements in Healthcare Delivery

By highlighting areas with extended waiting lists, the data can:

  1. Drive efforts to reduce wait lists and improve patient access to timely care.
  2. Facilitate better resource allocation and service planning within the healthcare system.
  3. Contribute to overall improvements in healthcare efficiency and patient outcomes.

For example, the first Covid-19 case emerged in Ireland at the end of February 2020, and by mid-March, all schools and childcare facilities were shut down. This shutdown likely disrupted regular check-ups and preventative care, potentially leading to a surge in undetected conditions requiring treatment later. The data available on the Inpatient and Outpatient Consultant-Led Waiting Lists showed that 812 Children (0-15 year olds) were waiting for Paed Orthopaedic treatment in February 2020, while in May 2020, that has increased to 987. For Otolaryngology (ENT), 735 children were waiting for treatment in February 2020; in May 2020, that number was 1,106. To safely recover from this backlog, it was recommended using up-to-date evidence to optimise children’s elective surgery. This approach ensures timely care while minimising the spread of Covid-19. While this data doesn't definitively prove a causal relationship between Covid-19 and the waiting list increase, it does demonstrate how highlighting areas with extended waiting lists can inform resource allocation and patient access to care.

Highlighting the Use of Open Data

The Open Data format promotes transparency and accessibility of waiting time information. This use allows for:

  • Broader public awareness: Open data empowers citizens to understand the healthcare landscape and engage in informed discussions about service delivery.
  • Research and analysis: Researchers and analysts can utilise the data to conduct studies, identify trends, and propose solutions to improve waiting lists.
  • Development of third-party applications: Open data can be used to create tools and applications that enhance access to waiting list information for patients and the public.

The collection, collation, and publication of hospital waiting list data, mainly through the Open Data initiative, is significant in promoting transparency, informing decision-making, and driving potential improvements in healthcare delivery. This data empowers various stakeholders to work towards reducing waiting lists and ensuring timely access to quality care for all patients.