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Central intake

One significant hurdle to receiving timely access to specialty care is finding the most appropriate specialist who is available when needed. An effective strategy is to allow a family physician to send the referral request to one central spot for the desired specialty. Two approaches are:

Central triage programs

Staff, typically experienced nurses, review the request and assess the patient’s level of urgency based on predetermined triage criteria.

Pooled referral systems

Referrals are directed to the next available specialist in the pool; no triage occurs.

Both have had positive results for family physicians and other specialists. Where to send a referral is clarified, and the system helps to more evenly distribute referrals among specialists in the same field within a region.


Six steps to an effective central intake program

Western Canada Waiting List

Central triage programs

Medical Access to Service, Calgary
The Path to Care Directory contains comprehensive referral guidelines for their central triage program

Bone and Joint Canada, Hip and knee replacement toolkit

A strategy to reduce hip and knee joint replacement wait times in Newfoundland and Labrador (2012)

Related resources

Pooled referral systems

Pooled referrals - guide for referring health providers, Saskatchewan

Pooled referrals: implementation guide for specialists , (2013) Saskatchewan