Reducing patient waiting times through quality assurance methods in La Troncal, Ecuador
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Long patient waiting time is a common problem in hospitals and urban health centers in Ecuador and elsewhere. Besides being a leading cause of patient dissatisfaction with health service quality, it is often related to short doctor-patient contact time that in turn can seriously reduce the technical quality of care. This articule describes a quality improvement effort undertaken by the staff of the La Troncal Health Center in Ecuador, with the assistance of the quality assurance project of the University Research Corporation and the Ecuadorian Minister of Health. Data on patient waiting times was collected and analyzed, and solutions were devised and implemented using quality assurance techniques. As a result, the average patient's total waiting time fell from 116 minutes per visit to 66, and his or her contact time with health center staff members increased from 11 minutes to 16. It appears that the methods and techniques applied have potencial for use elsewhere, because they can be applied easily by health personnel, and their cost of implementation is relatively lowThis article will also be published in Spanish in the Bol. Oficina Sanit. Panam. Vol. 121(2), July 1996
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