Dialogue Volume 15, Issue 3 2019 - Page 10

SECTION TK FEATURE Brenda Copps, a Hamilton family physician and Chair of the policy working group. “The stakes were high, so we did not want to end up with policies that were rushed through. We needed to look at our expectations, and have others look at our expectations, from every conceivable angle. We did that and as a result we have policies that are workable, reasonable and very much in the public interest,” she said. While elements of the draft policies received support from many respondents, concern that the expectations would unduly burden individual physicians, requiring them to provide solutions to broader system level issues emerged as a general theme in the feedback. The College recognized from the outset that physicians can not be solely responsible for ensuring that continuity of care is achieved; health system-level factors that are beyond the control or influence of individual physicians also impact continuity of care. Our consulta- tion process helped us identify those limits. (Please see article below) “During the consultation, respondents often offered more moderate steps that physicians could take to address continuity of care issues and we thought many of these steps seemed reasonable, while still retaining a focus on patient safety,” said Dr. Copps. In addition to the external consultation, which garnered nearly 700 responses, the Col- lege also worked closely with stakeholders to find common ground and expand upon areas of agreement. “At the heart of all our conversations was a shared understanding that continuity of care is an essential component of patient-centred care and is critical to patient safety,” said Dr. Peeter Poldre, President of the College and a mem- ber of the policy working group. “And we all understood the importance of information ex- change across different parts of the health-care system. So it was never a discussion of “why do we need to do this?” but rather an exploration of how best to do this,” he said. The set of inter-related policies address a range of issues. They are: Availability and Coverage, Managing Tests, Transitions in Care, and Walk-in Clinics. Below is a description of some of the changes System level changes will support, enhance College expectations The expectations set out in the Continuity of Care policies aim to help close some of the gaps in the system, but system level changes are also needed in order to complement, support, and enhance the expectations the College has set out. For example, we believe that breaks in continuity of care may be minimized by engaging patients in their care and providing them with the information and tools they need to navigate the system. And emerging 10 DIALOGUE ISSUE 2, 2019 technologies can help strengthen patient engagement. With patient portals becoming more common, patients will have greater opportunity to access their test results directly and in some cases, view their entire health record. Changes in the way hospitals develop discharge summaries, with a focus on patient needs and comprehension, also has the potential for better supporting transitions from hospital to home and minimizing breakdowns. Further growth in terms of access to these emerging tools will help to support patients and facilitate continuity of care. Engaging patients in their health- care and adopting technological solutions where they are reasonably available have the potential to meaningfully facilitate continuity of care. Doing so will complement physicians’ efforts in this regard and together many potential breakdowns may be avoided.