By Niall Emmott
If you were to experience a traumatic and complex injury such as a major burn, a gunshot wound or a brain injury in Alberta, you’ll be accessing a consistent, gold standard of care, thanks to a provincial system for trauma care services.
A trauma system connects different facilities and services that care for patients with complex and life-threatening conditions. Alberta is one of two provinces—the other is B.C.—that have established a provincial system.
“A provincial system enables us to apply best practices and make improvements across the system, instead of being limited to a zone or a type of setting, like a bigger city,” says Christine Vis, manager of Trauma Services at the Foothills Medical Centre. “No matter where patients are, our goal is to provide a gold standard of care and help them return to their homes and communities, healthy and happy.”
Taking a provincial approach to trauma services is unique to Alberta, but it isn’t new. The provincial trauma services team came together in 1999 with 10 sites in five zones and were already working together prior to Alberta Health Services being established. Since then, they have standardized practices and care so every patient receives the same high standards of care, regardless of where they live.
Another unique feature is Alberta’s Trauma Registry. The registry captures data from every patient who goes through the system, from ambulance to rehabilitation. As a result, healthcare workers have unprecedented access to information and data, which is then measured to continually improve processes and performance.
“Tracking data across the province benefits our care teams and, ultimately, our patients,” says Rosmin Esmail, provincial trauma epidemiologist. “We review data for quality, performance, and benchmarks, which then enables us to improve in all levels of care and standardize our practices. Because we measure it, we can improve it.”
Trauma teams in Foothills Medical Centre, the University of Alberta Hospital and the Royal Alexandra Hospital also participate in the American College of Surgeon’s Trauma Quality Improvement Program (TQIP).
Doing so allows Alberta to benchmark against seven leading centres in Canada and 800 centres in the U.S.
This work is leading toward Alberta Trauma Services’ application to secure Trauma Distinction from Accreditation Canada. If achieved, it will be the first time a provincial system has received this distinction.
“We’ve standardized protocols and policies across Alberta and continue to identify where there may be gaps in service and areas in order to continually improve,” says Esmail. “Over the years, Alberta’s trauma system has evolved to become the leader for trauma services in Canada. Our province is setting the gold standard.”
Niall Emmott is a Communications Advisor, Provincial Programs at Alberta Health Services.