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18 Innovative Approaches to Reducing Health-Care Wait Times in Canada


This paper explores 18 innovative approaches for reducing health-care wait times in Canada. The challenge is to identify high-impact, low-cost, and politically feasible policy reforms that do not necessitate a complete overhaul of the provincial health-care systems or the principle of universality. The paper discusses 18 use cases, each addressing different aspects of the health-care system and their potential solutions, implementation strategies, expected impact, cost estimates, political feasibility, and supporting evidence.


Canada's health-care wait times have become a significant concern, with patients experiencing long delays in receiving care. The Canadian health-care system has been struggling with the challenge of providing timely access to medical services. Canada's health-care system is facing a wicked problem, characterized by interconnected economic, cultural, and social factors that make it difficult to resolve. Over the past three years, the system has been overwhelmed by an unprecedented surge in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of new respiratory viruses. Furthermore, the system has struggled to address the growing backlog of postponed surgeries and diagnostic procedures, all while grappling with the increasing demographic pressures expected in the coming decades.

One of the most prominent manifestations of this health-care crisis is the prolonged wait times for medically necessary services. A recent Fraser Institute survey revealed that the median wait time between a referral from a general practitioner and receiving treatment had increased by 195% since 1993, reaching 27.4 weeks. These wait times place Canada among the lowest-performing jurisdictions in terms of health-care system performance, ranking second last in the Commonwealth Fund's comparison of 11 high-income countries, only ahead of the United States. This paper seeks to identify innovative yet practical policy ideas that can address the wait time crisis in a cost-effective, politically salient manner rooted in evidence.

Hunter Prize

The Hunter Prize seeks to address wicked problems such as Canada's health-care crisis by encouraging innovative, practical, and politically feasible policy reforms. This paper contributes to this effort by analyzing 18 use cases that target various aspects of the health-care system, aiming to improve efficiency and effectiveness while reducing wait times.


The paper analyzes 18 use cases, each addressing different aspects of the health-care system. For each use case, we provide a potential solution, implementation strategy, expected impact, cost estimate, political feasibility, and examples or evidence. The use cases were selected based on generative AI, machine learning models (LLMs) and coupled with creative prompt engineering and human augmentation.


Our analysis revealed a diverse range of potential solutions to reduce wait times in Canada's health-care system. These solutions are summarized in Table 1, titled "18 Innovative Policy Approaches to Reducing Health-Care Wait Times in Canada." The table provides an overview of the problem areas, potential solutions, implementation strategies, expected impact, cost estimates, political feasibility, evidence and examples, timeframes for implementation, and stakeholders involved for each use case.

Table 1

Download the table's csv file here.


The x-axis represents the use cases, and the y-axis represents the political feasibility ratings. The chart includes labels for each use case, which are rotated and placed below the bars for better visibility. The colour of the bars indicates the level of political feasibility, with blue representing "High" feasibility and orange representing "Moderate to high" feasibility. A legend indicates the meaning of the bar heights ("High" and "Moderate to high"). The use case labels have been abbreviated to fit within the chart, but they correspond to the full use case names provided in the original data.


The use cases presented in this paper demonstrate that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of health-care wait times in Canada. However, a combination of these innovative approaches, tailored to the specific needs of each province or territory, could lead to a significant reduction in wait times. It is crucial to consider the political feasibility, cost estimates, and expected impact of each proposed solution, as well as the specific context in which it would be implemented.


Reducing health-care wait times in Canada requires a multi-faceted approach that incorporates various innovative solutions. Policymakers, healthcare providers, and stakeholders must work together to identify and implement the most effective strategies for addressing this complex issue. By analyzing the use cases presented in this paper, we can begin to develop practical policy reforms that can lead to a more efficient and accessible healthcare system for all Canadians.


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