May 2, 2019 | Leadership, Community and Partnerships
Let me start this month’s blog with a story about my father-in-law - known in our family as Opa.
Opa is a little over 80 years old. He lives in the same community as my two brothers-in-law and their families- about four hours or so away from my hubby, BK and I. We talk with Opa weekly when he calls us for his ‘check to make sure we’re alive’ call on Sunday morning precisely at 10:00 a.m. Come rain or shine, he calls us at that time. It’s reassuring on many levels to hear the phone ring as it means he’s ok and on schedule. :)
Opa lives on his own, drives his own car, goes to the local mall regularly, does daily exercises and has an active relationship with his girlfriend. He is feisty, opinionated and stubborn (just like my hubby and my kids – it runs in the family) and has not required a lot of help or support to live reasonably in his apartment. He is capable of managing his life but it’s growing more and more complicated as he ages. Specifically, it’s growing more complex managing the multiple number of medical appointments and follow-ups he has.
About two weeks ago, Opa had a bout of pneumonia, with some cardiac involvement and was hospitalized for a couple of days in his local acute care hospital. It is an excellent facility and he received top notch care, however some things happened that illustrate this month’s blog topic. One in particular is helpful for understanding why the changes that are happening – as it relates to the new Ontario government – are necessary in my opinion.
On his last day in hospital, his hospital physician came in to see him while my brother-in-law was in the room, so he FaceTimed us into the conversation with the physician. This is how the conversation went: (paraphrased and edited:)
Doc: Opa I think you can go home today, so can you tell me when you will be seeing your doctor next?
Opa: Which doctor?
Doc: How many doctors do you have?
Opa: 7 – I think I have 7
Doc: 7 – oh your family doctor?
Opa: I don’t know when I go – I don’t remember – it’s at home
It went on from there. Opa was not clear on what the hospital doctor was looking for. The doctor wanted to communicate to Opa that he needed to follow-up with his family doctor in short order. All Opa heard though is why don’t you know this – although that clearly wasn’t the intent of the doctor’s questions.
So why am I telling you this story? Because change is underway in Ontario that will (if we get it right) change the above conversation to something more like the following:
Doc: Opa I’m here to talk with you about your plans at home. I’ve reviewed your file and I see that you’re due to see your family doctor in three weeks. I’ve called the office and your appointment has been moved up to the day after tomorrow and is confirmed. Your family doctor has your information from your stay here in hospital and is going to work with you to adjust your medications to ensure you stay healthy. I noticed you’re living on your own and wonder if you need any support at home for the next couple of weeks? Etc. etc.
See the difference? In today’s system Opa has to manage it all and remember it all. He’s more or less on his own. In the future state, the “system” is linked, connected and information flows across the “silos” so patients don’t have to manage or remember it all. This is just a small example of the promise of the new Ontario Health Teams which are the key component of the health system change that we have begun here in Ontario.
There has been a lot of conversation since Minister Christine Elliott’s announcement of this change in February. Is it good, is it bad, how will we ever accomplish a restructuring of this size? Is this the first step to privatized healthcare? Etc etc….
These and other questions are normal and are to be expected in a time of change. What should also be expected is some anxiety, some fear and maybe a bit of hesitation all mixed in with excitement, hope and enthusiasm. For all kinds of reasons including from the clear focus on patients and families to the requirement for connectivity and collaboration, our team here at HDGH believes this is a very promising change. We know that if this is done properly, we will have the opportunity to deliver a future where the Opas of our province are not left wondering where to turn next for their healthcare needs but are instead guided along the entire path by those of us who work in the system.
We have the chance to finally build a system that is patient and family centred, that works to ensure staff and physicians are supported to be their best, where costs are managed appropriately by ensuring the dollars we have are flowed to the most urgent and community focused priorities and where outcomes are managed and publicly reported. Wow … doesn’t that sound like something we all want to be a part of?
This is an exciting time. I know that many are concerned but I’ve also spoken to those who are excited and eager to begin the work. Here in Windsor-Essex our community has begun to come together to have the needed conversations on what will work for us and what we will need to do together to make this promise a reality. There is much to do and I’ll keep you all apprised as we go.
Like spring – change is in the air and it’s bringing hope for renewal.
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