By Cal Braid
Sunny South News
Alberta Health Services (AHS) has introduced a new program that should optimize patient access to specialist services. Dubbed the Alberta Facilitated Access to Special Treatment program (FAST), it is managed by a central team that takes doctor referrals and then assigns them to a specialist with the shortest wait-list.
“The FAST program is an important step in the Alberta Surgical Initiative that will cut wait times at every step of a patient’s surgical journey,” said Jason Copping, Minister of Health in a press release. “This program will help patients see a specialist faster after they have received a referral from their primary care provider, and streamlines the process for busy family doctors, who can send their referrals to one place rather than sending to multiple different specialists.”
The release also stated that, “AHS, in partnership with Alberta Health, developed the Alberta Surgical Initiative (ASI), a plan that strives to ensure that all Albertans will receive their scheduled surgeries within clinically appropriate wait times.”
The FAST program was already operational in Edmonton, and has been integrated in phases across the rest of the province since August. “Since then, the program has handled more than 15,000 referrals for a urologist or orthopedic surgeon,” the release said. It also quoted Mauro Chies, AHS Interim President and Chief Executive Officer, who said, “With FAST, family doctors can request their patient be referred to the next available specialist, or they can request a specific specialist or a specific location that the patient and their doctor have decided works best for the patient and their family. The whole program aims to improve how patients and providers experience care.”
The FAST program is expected to move quickly in the coming months to encompass all surgical specialties.
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