Transforming the way we work together through integration

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As CEOs of the three largest health service providers in the Central West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), we have always considered our organizations as true partners, aligning our efforts in a myriad of ways to provide our growing community with exceptional health care that evolves to continuously meet its needs.

Last summer, we took our partnership to a whole other level when we shifted from traditional thinking, broke down barriers, and considered more unconventional methods of collaboration. The result? A first of its kind partnership in Ontario, with tremendous potential to create a more integrated, patient-centric health care system that is easier for people to access, understand, and navigate.

In August 2014, the Central West Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), Headwaters Health Care Centre (Headwaters), and William Osler Health System (Osler) took the bold step of integrating the non-clinical support functions of our three organizations. Our goal: to put patients in the Central West region first by providing better care and creating a seamless experience for them as they move throughout the health care system.

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This partnership brings together our organizations’ non-clinical teams responsible for finance, human resources, information technology, redevelopment and facilities, patient experience, and communications and strategy – all under five jointly appointed VPs. It enables our organizations to work together in new ways, provides opportunities for making joint investments and allows for robust regional planning. It also makes it possible for us to harness the talent, energy and innovation within the non-clinical support areas to find new approaches to better serve patients and families within the local acute and community care sectors.

This new form of collaboration came to fruition after our Strategic Partnership Committee identified the non-clinical integration as an important step toward improving patient care. The committee, which is comprised of board members from our three organizations, focuses on fostering and promoting strategic corporation across the region with the aim of helping us efficiently meet this region’s health care needs.

The Central West region is one of the most diverse and fastest-growing in the province, and our organizations share similar challenges. Therefore, adopting a unified approach to promoting the sustainability of our local health care system and looking for opportunities to strategically align our administrative functions helps us improve our combined ability to meet the health care needs of the patients and families we serve – now and into the future.

While it is still early days, the impact of the changes on our clinical work derive real benefits for our patients. We have already been able to see and measure its positive impact on Central West patients and their families. Here are a few examples:

Improving access to services when and where patients need them most

More than 400 patients in our region undergo dialysis three times a week. Research conducted by the Ontario Renal Network (ORN) has shown that patients who receive treatment closer to home reported a significantly better score on the dialysis stress portions of medical assessment surveys, so making appointments as convenient as possible is a shared goal.

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With support from ORN, Osler and Headwaters collaborated to bring the Orangeville hospital under the umbrella of the Chronic Kidney Disease Program for the Central West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). This means that patients at Headwaters now have access to dialysis treatment and to the same high-quality kidney specialists that are available at Osler. Due to this change, 94 per cent of our patients do not have to travel more than 30 minutes to receive their treatment.

As a result of our partnership, we have created and are sustaining an environment that enables: better coordination of services and continuity of care across the region; support for a best practice model for patients with kidney disease; expanded access to a wide range of clinical, education and support resources; and a higher health-related quality of life for patients who travel shorter distances for treatment.

Enhancing healthy system performance within the communities we serve

In December and January, Headwaters and Osler hospitals experienced a surge in patients due to a spike in flu activity. While seasonal surges occur every year, this year’s arrived earlier than expected and saw us caring for more patients than ever before.  Between December 22 and January 4, there was a nearly 13 per cent increase in patient visits at Headwaters, while Osler’s Brampton Civic Hospital and Etobicoke General Hospital collectively saw a more than six per cent increase. During that same time period, the CCAC saw an almost 63 per cent increase in the number of patient referrals they received from all three hospitals.

To manage these volumes effectively and ensure our patients continued to receive outstanding care, we acted quickly and implemented a collaborative response. Within hours of entering the surge, a command centre and cross-organizational team of leaders was established. Our jointly-developed surge plan was initiated and together, and we formulated innovative new plans to address our immediate needs. With the support of the CCAC to help more patients safely transition home, we have been able to discharge patients knowing they will continue to receive excellent care.

Creating a seamless experience for patients as they move through the health care system

Our administrative alliances have fostered a culture of collaboration throughout all levels of our organizations, with clinical and non-clinical staff alike. We recently created a new regional pharmacy position that will oversee and lead the development and implementation of pharmaceutical and medication management services at our organizations.

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The new position is the first clinical role that will span across our three organizations, and is an organic response to our need to ensure improved safety and outcomes for patients upon admission, transfer and discharge. The person who fills this role will work closely with other clinical leaders to gather a regional perspective to decision-making and strategy development that will help us deliver more efficient pharmaceutical services to all of our patients throughout their continuum of care.

Promoting a more regional perspective to planning to support the delivery of health care services across the communities we serve

For the first time, our organizations have begun the process of creating a joint business plan. Together, we are able to adopt a truly regional perspective for our planning and decide upon our areas of focus. With a bird’s eye view of the health care needs of our region and shared information from our various departments, we will be able to assess opportunities for synergies among our organizations.

Our ambitious plan will build upon our collective accomplishments to further drive our organizations toward achieving our strategic directions. The plan will focus on further developing our integration agenda so that we can best serve the patients in our communities.

These three examples are just a few of the ways our organizations have been able to collaborate to improve health care in our region. Together, will continue to focus on delivering services in dynamic and new ways, improve processes, and optimize resources to meet the unique needs of the communities we serve well into the future.