A new study in the latest issue of Health Services Research is the first to measure a relationship between waiting for healthcare and mortality rates - especially in the elderly.

Waiting times throughout the US healthcare system have been increasing. The study found that while waiting less than thirty-one days does not have a detectable effect on mortality, waiting beyond that increases the mortality risk. It also shows that keeping waiting times for elderly patients under thirty-one days improves health outcomes.

"Patients who used medical facilities with average waits of thirty-one days or more were 20% more likely to die in a six month follow-up period compared to those using facilities with shorter waits," says author Julia Prentice.

It is important for health system managers to monitor how long patients wait for care as a quality control measure. The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the few U.S. healthcare organizations that systematically tracks and manages wait times. Other American health systems should follow the VA's lead in this area.

Health Services Research (HSR) provides those engaged in research, public policy formulation, and health services management with the latest findings, methods, and thinking on important policy and practice issues. Providing a forum for the expansion of knowledge of the financing, organization, delivery, and outcomes of health services, HSR also allows practitioners and students alike to exchange ideas that will help to improve the health of individuals and communities.

Julia Prentice, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist at the Health Care Financing and Economics research group located at the Boston VA Health Care System. She received her doctorate in Community Health Sciences in 2004 from UCLA. During her time at UCLA and as a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Health Quality, Outcomes, and Economic Research at the Bedford VA, Dr. Prentice pursued a variety of research topics investigating the relationship between access to health care and health outcomes.

Blackwell Publishing is the world's leading society publisher, partnering with 665 medical, academic, and professional societies. Blackwell publishes over 800 journals and has over 6,000 books in print. The company employs over 1,000 staff members in offices in the US, UK, Australia, China, Singapore, Denmark, Germany, and Japan and officially merged with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.'s Scientific, Technical, and Medical business in February 2007. Blackwell's mission as an expert publisher is to create long-term partnerships with our clients that enhance learning, disseminate research, and improve the quality of professional practice.

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Health Services Research

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