Objectives To obtain patients’ perspectives on acceptable waiting times for hip or knee replacement surgery.
Methods A questionnaire with both open- and close-ended items was mailed to 432 consecutive patients who had hip or knee replacement surgery 3–12 months previously in Saskatchewan, Canada. A content analysis was used to analyse the text data from the open-ended questions.
Results The sample of 303 (response rate 70%) was 59% female with a mean age of 70 years (SD 11). The median waiting time from the decision date to surgery was 17 weeks. Individuals who rated their waiting time very acceptable (48%) had a median waiting time of 13 weeks compared with a median waiting time of 22 weeks for those who rated it unacceptable (23%). The two most common determinants of acceptability were patient expectations and pain and its impact on patient quality of life. The median maximum acceptable waiting time was 13 weeks and median ideal waiting time, 8.6 weeks. Seventy-nine per cent felt that those in greater need (higher severity) should go before them on the waiting list. Patient ratings of maximum acceptable waiting time were based on: pain and loss of mobility, time needed to prepare for surgery, and severity at the time of seeing the surgeon. In consideration of changing their surgeon to one with a shorter waiting list, 68% would not.
Conclusions Patient views on waiting times are not only related to quality of life issues, but also to prior expectations and notions of fairness and priority. Understanding patient views on waiting for surgery has implications for better management of waiting times and experiences for joint replacement.