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Gaceta Sanitaria

Print version ISSN 0213-9111

Abstract

MARTI, J.. Management of surgical waiting lists by health centers and health professionals. Gac Sanit [online]. 2002, vol.16, n.5, pp. 440-443. ISSN 0213-9111.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0213-91112002000500011.

Waiting lists for non-urgent medical care, in diagnostic or therapeutic procedures, occur mainly in public health systems such as those found in Spain and many other European countries. If waiting lists are moderate they can be useful in the process of managing these patients and are accepted by health professionals and health services users. Waiting lists for surgical procedures can be interpreted, erroneously, as a simple imbalance between the supply and demand for a particular procedure. If that were the case, we would only have to progressively increase resources until eliminating the lists. However, considerable evidence suggests that the isolated increase of resources does not solve the problem since the mean waiting time is reduced but the waiting list becomes longer. Therefore, other management measures are required. The management of waiting lists is necessary at the levels of society, health administration and especially health centers. Clinical management by departments and individual health professionals is essential, using the criteria of inclusion of scientific evidence in the indication for treatment and in the results expected for each patient (effectiveness of the procedure) as well as ethical criteria and considerations of resource use efficiency. Prioritizing patients according to severity, probability of improvement and social criteria is an unavoidable obligation in improving the problem of waiting lists. In this process of prioritization, society should also be able to voice an opinion since non-medical factors may influence the distribution and prioritization of resources and in this context the experience of other countries should be analyzed. Finally, as Archie Cochrane said "all effective treatment should be free" which, put another way would be: in a public system, the financing of procedures that do not provide significant benefits to patients is not justified.

Keywords : Waiting lists; Surgical procedures; Clinical practice variability; Prioritization; Clinical management.

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