Access to a regular primary care provider is essential to quality care. In Canada, where 15 % of patients are unattached (i.e., without a regular provider), centralized waiting lists (CWLs) help attach patients to a primary care provider (family physician or nurse practitioner). Previous studies reveal mechanisms needed for CWLs to work, but focus mostly on CWLs for specialized health care. We aim to better understand how to design CWLs for unattached patients in primary care. In this study, a logic analysis compares empirical evidence from a qualitative case study of CWLs for unattached patients in seven Canadian provinces to programme theory derived from a realist review on CWLs. Data is analyzed using context-intervention-mechanism-outcome configurations. Results identify mechanisms involved in three components of CWL design: patient registration, patient prioritization, and patient assignment to a provider for attachment. CWL programme theory is revised to integrate mechanisms specific to primary care, where patients, rather than referring providers, are responsible for registering on the CWL, where prioritization must consider a broad range of conditions and characteristics, and where long-term acceptability of attachment is important. The study provides new insight into mechanisms that enable CWLs for unattached patients to work.
Keywords: Access; Evaluation; Logic analysis; Primary care; Realist review; Wait list.
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