A little over a year ago, Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott announced the provincial government’s plan to revitalize the public healthcare system. The plan centers around creating a more integrated and sustainable system that focuses on patients’ needs and outcomes by connecting them to the right settings throughout their care journeys.
Similar to many of the challenges facing healthcare systems elsewhere around the world, including the U.S., Minister Elliott cited these factors as part of the need to revamp the current system:
- Care delivery is fragmented, especially when it comes to patient care transitions.
- The healthcare system is too complex for patients and families to navigate.
- Care teams work in silos because the system and technology weren’t built for the way doctors, nurses, and clinicians do their jobs.
- Patients and caregivers alike are asking for modern tools and technology.
- From 2014 - 2019, Ontario has spent 30% more than the Canadian average in administrative expenses on its health care system.
- Since 2003 average wait times for placement in long-term care homes rose by over 300%, from 36 days to 146 days.
- Each day, thousands of Ontarians are subjected to hallway health care because alternative level of care (ALC) rates are so high — meaning that patients are being treated in hospital hallways because acute care beds are occupied by patients who, in turn, aren’t able to find placement in settings more appropriate for their needs due to bed shortages in those settings or lack of home care services.
As part of the changes deemed necessary to build a less fragmented, more patient-centric system, the government also announced the formation of the Ontario Health Teams, which include providers from across the care spectrum working together as one coordinated team. Teams are accountable for improving the patient experience as well as the overall health of the populations they serve, and for creating a more fiscally efficient system through sharing information and resources.
For Ontario, the team approach to addressing challenges in the healthcare system seems to be working. Even prior to the Minister’s announcement, we saw the formation of several important hospital partnerships, including within mental health care delivery.
For example, Humber River Hospital opened North America’s first digital command centre, which is now considered one of the most highly advanced, data-driven command centres around the globe, enabling the hospital to monitor and manage patient flow at every stage of care in real time.
To help further the government’s efforts to create a more connected healthcare system, Humber recently entered a partnership with Runnymede Healthcare Centre that will streamline care for patients who need complex continuing care and rehabilitation services. According to the announcement, “Together, HRH and Runnymede will be able to bridge the gap between acute, rehabilitative, complex continuing, outpatient, and virtual care, making it easier for patients to navigate the system and access the care they need.”
Another instance of hospitals coming together to deliver seamless care is the Shared Health Information Network Exchange (SHINE) initiative, a partnership between Markham Stouffville Hospital, Southlake Regional Health Centre, and Stevenson Memorial Hospital. One of the initial goals of the project is to address disparities that can occur in small to rural hospitals, especially for those patients unable to access specialists. By creating a shared patient record across all three organizations, clinicians have real-time access to the patient's health information, no matter where the patient receives care.
Members of these forward-thinking partnerships were recently asked to participate in the Canadian Centre for Healthcare Facilities Conference, as part of a panel discussion on what the hospital of the future looks like (see page 8 of Canadian Healthcare Technology). President and CEO of Southlake Regional Hospital Arden Krystal remarked about overcrowded hospitals and how outreach solutions and virtual care are options better suited for certain patient populations. President and CEO Barbara Collins of Humber River addressed the importance of gaining efficiencies by leveraging innovation and technology, as witnessed through Humber’s command centre.
Partnerships have also been forming in other regions of the province. In the Greater Ottawa area, six hospitals are working together to implement a single EHR across all organizations. The cluster of hospitals, known as CHAMP, the “Champlain Association of MEDITECH Partners,” includes Arnprior Regional Health, Bruyère Continuing Care, Carleton Place & District Memorial Hospital, Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital, Hôpital Montfort, and Queensway Carleton Hospital. Together they provide a wide range of healthcare services and resources to support close to 1 million patients each year.
Within northeastern Ontario, the ONE Initiative is yet another regional partnership working on a transformational project to improve patient care through the implementation of a single electronic health information system across the region’s 24 acute care hospitals. The first phase of the project recently went LIVE among three hospitals, with the second phase to follow.
These are just a few examples of how Ontario’s healthcare organizations are embracing collaboration as well as modern tools and fully-integrated EHR technology — to improve patient care — and move Canada’s digital health agenda forward, starting at the provincial level. Their success could provide an important model for other countries (including the U.S.) to follow in the future.
Clinicians, hospitals, and health authorities from Toronto to Nunavut rely on MEDITECH to connect them to the information they need to deliver quality care.