Abstract Background Timely access is a challenge for providers of outpatient and community-based health services, as seen by the often lengthy waiting lists to manage demand. The Specific Timely Appointments for Triage (STAT) model, an alternative approach for managing access and triage, reduced waiting time by 34% in a stepped wedge cluster randomised controlled trial involving 8 services and more than 3000 participants. Follow up periods ranged from 3 to 10 months across the participating services in accordance with the stepped wedge design. This study aimed to determine whether outcomes were sustained for a full 12 months after implementation of the STAT model at each site. Methods Routinely collected service data were obtained for a total of 12 months following implementation of the STAT model at each of the 8 services that participated in a stepped wedge cluster randomised controlled trial. The primary outcome was time to first appointment. Secondary outcomes included non-attendance rates, time to second appointment and service use over 12 weeks. Outcomes were compared to pre-intervention data from the original trial, modelled using generalised linear mixed effects models accounting for clustering of sites. Results A 29% reduction in waiting time could be attributed to STAT over 12 months, compared to 34% in the original trial. A reduction in variability in waiting time was sustained. There were no significant changes in time to second appointment or in the number of missed appointments in the extended follow up period. Conclusions STAT is an effective strategy for reducing waiting time in community-based outpatient services. At 12 months, small reductions in the overall effect are apparent, but reductions in variability are sustained, suggesting that people who previously waited the longest benefit most from the STAT model. Trial registration This is a 12-month follow up of a stepped wedge cluster randomised controlled trial that was registered with the Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12615001016527).



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BMC Health Services Research





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School of Nursing and Midwifery