Medimap study shows increases in wait times at walk-in clinics across Canada

Canadians spent more time waiting at a walk-in clinic last year, compared to 2021.

That conclusion comes from a study done by Medimap, a Canadian health-tech company that matches patients with walk-in clinics, pharmacists and health professionals to simplify access to care.

The study covers the years 2019, 2021 and 2022, but skips 2020, which Vice President of Operations for Medimap Teddy Wickland said was due to walk-in clinics closing their doors or a lack of in-person visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We actually – as a company because we had spent our entire first 4 years just working with walk-in clinics – we had no customers at that point so we had actually built a virtual care platform for those walk-in clinics, and so they weren’t operating under that walk-in model, they were operating by an appointment-only [model] for virtual visits.” Wickland explained.

For Saskatchewan, the average wait time at the clinics grew to 51 minutes in 2022, compared to 31 in 2021. Moose Jaw had the longest average wait time of 78 minutes in 2022, Martensville the second longest at 65 minutes, followed by Saskatoon at 62 minutes, Warman 52 minutes, and Regina 39 minutes. Manitoba’s wait time grew to 31 minutes, and the national average was 37 minutes.

Wickland explained there are two main factors contributing to the increase in wait times: a decrease of supply on the provider side, and an increase in demand on the patient side.

“Coming out of the (COVID-19) pandemic, what you had is a lot of doctors choosing to retire early, you had doctors closing their practice altogether, you have doctors converting to from a walk-in clinic or a family doctor into some other type of specialty for a better work-life balance.”

“A lot of people have relocated during the pandemic – people in new geographies without a family doctor, without sort of understanding how to find care – and then you have coming out of the pandemic people put off care for a year or two years because they were worried about going into a walk-in clinic, going to a hospital because they were worried about getting sick; and now they’re re-entering the system on top of what would be normal patient volumes.” said Wickland of the two contributing factors.

“The drastic increase in average wait times at walk-in clinics provides further evidence that healthcare systems across the country are struggling to provide adequate care,” said Thomas Jankowski, CEO of Medimap in a news release. “While there is no single solution to fix this problem, our mission at Medimap is to work with healthcare providers,
including walk-in clinics, pharmacies, hospitals and allied health-care professionals to help Canadians find the care they need when they need it.”

Wickland echoed the CEO’s statements, saying despite best efforts from provincial governments to “buck the trend, we’re continuing to go in the wrong direction.”

He used B.C. as an example where they’re changing the fee structure and incentives for doctors, as well as expanding the scope of pharmacists to provide treatment for some 13 minor ailments in an effort to get more healthcare providers to treat more patients and being able to take some of the workload off the healthcare system.

Another aspect, Wickland said, is how to bring more technology into healthcare.

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