Central intake to improve access to physiotherapy for children with complex needs: a mixed methods case report

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Wittmeier, Kristy D M
Restall, Gayle
Mulder, Kathy
Dufault, Brenden
Paterson, Marie
Thiessen, Matthew
Lix, Lisa M
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Abstract Background Children with complex needs can face barriers to system access and navigation related to their need for multiple services and healthcare providers. Central intake for pediatric rehabilitation was developed and implemented in 2008 in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada as a means to enhance service coordination and access for children and their families. This study evaluates the process and impact of implementing a central intake system, using pediatric physiotherapy as a case example. Methods A mixed methods instrumental case study design was used. Interviews were completed with 9 individuals. Data was transcribed and analyzed for themes. Quantitative data (wait times, referral volume and caregiver satisfaction) was collected for children referred to physiotherapy with complex needs (n = 1399), and a comparison group of children referred for orthopedic concerns (n = 3901). Wait times were analyzed using the Kruskal-Wallis test, caregiver satisfaction was analyzed using Fisher exact test and change point modeling was applied to examine referral volume over the study period. Results Interview participants described central intake implementation as creating more streamlined processes. Factors that facilitated successful implementation included 1) agreement among stakeholders, 2) hiring of a central intake coordinator, 3) a financial commitment from the government and 4) leadership at the individual and organization level. Mean (sd) wait times improved for children with complex needs (12.3(13.1) to 8.0(6.9) days from referral to contact with family, p < 0.0001; 29.8(17.9) to 24.3(17.0) days from referral to appointment, p < 0.0001) while referral volumes remained consistent. A small but significant increase in wait times was observed for the comparison group (9.6(8.6) to 10.1(6.6) days from referral to contact with family, p < 0.001; 20.4(14.3) to 22.1(13.1) days from referral to appointment, p < 0.0001), accompanied by an increasing referral volume for this group. Caregiver satisfaction remained high throughout the process (p = 0.48). Conclusions Central intake implementation achieved the intended outcomes of streamlining processes and improving transparency and access to pediatric physiotherapy (i.e., decreasing wait times) for families of children with complex needs. Future research is needed to build on this single discipline case study approach to examine changes in wait times, therapy coordination and stakeholder satisfaction within the context of continuing improvements for pediatric therapy services within the province.
BMC Health Services Research. 2016 Aug 31;16(1):455