Building stronger supports to meet the needs of seniors through simplified patient pathways, more flexible home care and reduced hospital visits was the main focus of a two-day meeting involving provincial health-care partners.
The Ministry of Health brought together representatives from a broad cross-section of the health sector, from family physicians, home-care nurses and residential-care providers to home- and community-care staff and patients, for a working session on finding concrete actions to improve primary and community care for seniors.
“This forum was a great opportunity for stakeholders to talk about a truly integrated health system that works for seniors, with a much stronger focus on care in the community to help people stay healthy and in their homes longer,” said Lake. “The current primary- and community-care system is comprehensive, but not always optimally designed to address patient needs, and we need simple and clear pathways to streamline access.”
Care providers and administrators from 10 communities - Abbotsford, Comox, Cowichan, Kamloops, Kelowna, Langley, the North Shore, Prince George, Vancouver and Vanderhoof - strategized on different ways of working together in their community so the system better supports elderly patients. The teams are now developing proposals to implement as prototypes for models of care that other communities can follow.
Actions will include making home supports more flexible, and actively identifying seniors at risk of decline so home-care services can be provided proactively. Care providers in different areas of the health system will work together on care plans, allowing for more co-ordinated care and rapid response to frail seniors’ changing health status.
More direct, expedited access to diagnostics when required will also be explored, to give elderly patients an alternative to going to hospital. Multidisciplinary care teams - which could include doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, or dieticians - may also be set up to specifically target care for high-risk seniors to provide more co-ordinated, proactive primary care.
“It was encouraging to see the level of engagement by so many leaders in the health-care system to address the issue of improving care for seniors,” said B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel MacKenzie, who also attended the two-day session. “Including the voice of actual seniors in the forum shows a commitment to listening to the needs of seniors.”
The forum also discussed ways to enable short-terms stays in residential care for respite, assessment or stabilizing a short-term health issue to prevent hospital admissions for episodes that can be managed through community care.
“We want to make it easy for those needing care to access it,” added Lake. “Right now when you need nursing care at home, you have to go through a long intake process that can take days or even weeks. Sometimes it's easier for doctors to just send patients to the ER, which puts pressure on the system. We need to give clinicians tools to make choices that best serve the patient, so they don’t have to just prescribe a pill or send someone to the hospital because there isn’t another good option.”
Those in attendance will take the ideas back to their communities and work on them over the summer. Another session will be held in September to finalize plans, which will begin rolling out in the fall. The prototype communities will then provide models for other areas of the province to implement over the next year.
The two-day gathering centred on the ministry’s “Setting Priorities for the B.C. Health System”, an overarching strategy to create a more sustainable health system that supports people to stay healthy, while providing high-quality, publicly funded health-care services that better meet their needs when they are sick.
To address these priorities, a series of policy papers has been developed, outlining the need for action. The papers focus on primary and community care, rural health and surgical services, as well as health human resources and information management and technology.
To find out more about the Ministry of Health strategic priorities documents, visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=EF73BCF3DE34484CB4DBA9E34092402C
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