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Big changes coming to healthcare in Northern BC

Big changes are coming to the way healthcare is delivered in Northern BC.

Northern Health is rolling out teams of medical professionals to support family doctors while they treat complex issues.

The current traditional approach has family doctors referring patients to specialists and others physicians, sometimes punting them around the system. Medical records rarely follow the patient, and they are forced to re explain their condition every time they meet a new doctor.

This can create understandable frustrations for many people dealing with the health care system.

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Moving forward, family doctors will have access to intra-professional teams made up of a panel of experts which could include a nurse practitioner, social worker, addictions expert, primary care assistant and more.

“Almost a one stop shopping method” Chief Operating Officer of Northern Health Michael McMillian said

While the average person dealing with the healthcare system will see no change at all, a person dealing with a more complex issue such as diabetes or a pregnancy should see improvement.

“What we want is for you to notice a team wrapped around you.” McMillan said “That you are getting your care connected to primary care and that your primary care physician is quarterbacking the whole care plan.”

McMillan acknowledged that they currently do a pretty poor job sharing information between different parts of the system.

“There is a huge under the hood piece of work here around making sure we can share care plans with the people that need it.”

In the future, when a person is admitted to hospital medical staff there will be able to pull up relevant information and files created by that patient’s intra-professional team. Any hospital treatment will then be logged so the team and family doctors are kept up to date.

A prototype for this model has been running in Prince George, Fort St John and Fraser Lake since 2012, but it is just now being rolled out region wide. The transformation will happen in smaller communities first.

McMillan says they hope the changes cut down on unneeded hospital visits and specialist referrals, while freeing up those resources for others.

Intra-professional healthcare teams are used in other jurisdictions around the world to great success. While Northern Health is the first health authority in BC to make a full shift to the system, all the others are experimenting one way or another.

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