SHA hopes new system will help patients waiting for hip, knee surgeries

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has launched a new system it hopes will reduce wait times for hip and knee replacements in the province.

In a media release, the SHA said its new centralized intake system — which came online in February — gives patients more choice and better access to the next available surgeon for those surgeries.

Cindy Graham, the executive director of Provincial Surgical Services for the SHA, called the system “a game-changer for hip and knee replacement surgery patients in Saskatchewan.”

“Patient-centred care is at the heart of this new system,” Graham said in the release. “It offers patients more surgical options in an effort to shorten wait times – from a choice of surgical location to the choice of a specific surgeon, to the next available surgeon – all while reducing barriers to accessing timely surgical care.”

Wait times in Saskatchewan for those surgeries were the worst in Canada, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s latest report, from 2022.

It found the national average wait time for knee replacements was 198 days, while the average wait time in Saskatchewan was 466 days.

The average wait time in Saskatchewan for hip replacements was 309 days, nearly twice the national average of 164 days.

However, the SHA claims it has been cutting into wait times in record fashion. The authority previously said it had set records for surgeries in the first six months of the 2023 fiscal year and the first nine months of the fiscal year as well.

According to the SHA, hip and knee replacements account for the largest percentage of the procedures being done.

The release from the health authority said the new intake system co-ordinates, tracks and monitors all referrals for hip and knee replacement surgeries in the province. Patients are given their choice of location for the surgery and the system then connects them with the surgeon that fits the patients’ choices.

The SHA said 32 orthopedic surgeons already are participating in the initiative across five surgical locations.

Since the system launched in February, those who provide referrals and their patients have chosen the next available surgeon 65 per cent of the time, and 20 per cent of patients have opted to have their hip or knee replacement surgeries done outside of their home location.

“Surgeons want a system that allows patients improved access to surgery with as short of a wait as possible,” Dr. Michael Kelly, the provincial head of surgery for the SHA, said in the release.

“Surgeons support the central pooled referral system as it will reduce surgical wait times by level loading surgical referrals between all surgeons provincially and to more surgical locations. It’s helping to enhance and standardize the information patients receive prior to surgical consult, directly impacting their referral decisions.”

All of the orthopedic hip and knee surgeons in Saskatchewan receive referrals through the intake system, which considers each surgeon’s capacity, designated operating room time and specialized services.

The authority says the new system also creates “a more efficient system that will eliminate wait list duplication and avoid missed referrals.”

More information on the hip and knee replacement referral process can be found here.

The province also recently added surgical information to its MySaskHealthRecord system, which provides real-time updates to users about the time and location for a procedure, the status of appointments and surgeries, and even the name of the surgeon or specialist who will perform the operation.

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