Reducing Wait Times in a Busy Public Clinic

The South African Provincial Western Cape Department of Health is a government-run organization that delivers free healthcare to more than 16 million uninsured patients every year.

In 2013, Western Cape sought GlobalHealth Lab’s support to address a set of operational challenges in one of its high-volume clinics, Cape Town’s Retreat Health Centre. Walk-in or unbooked patients in particular could wait many hours before being treated; they frequently waited over two hours, on average, just to be triaged. The student team collected and analyzed hundreds of patient route slips across several patient categories (including psychiatric, ARV unit patients, and chronic disease patients) and concentrated its efforts on the flow of general booked and unbooked patients. The team also tested four significant changes in paperwork and patient flow over several days, which resulted in a marked decrease in unbooked patients’ time to triage. Additional recommendations were designed to help clinic management continue to shift tasks to more appropriate staff members and to apply more resources for patient triage. The team also developed a customized tool kit that included practical methods for tracking patients throughout the clinic using barcode scanning technology and macro-enabled spreadsheets tied to the clinic’s intranet.


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Western Cape Department of Health Website

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