The wait-list for non-urgent gastrointestinal (GI) treatment for patients in the Calgary area has dropped by 98 per cent without requiring any additional resources.
The remarkable decrease is thanks to an innovative program, Enhanced Primary Care Pathways, an initiative that improves links between primary care providers and specialists.
“When someone is suffering from a gastrointestinal problem, they deserve to get the help they need as soon as possible. Ensuring these patients get a timely diagnosis and access to treatment faster is another example of our government’s priority to make life better for Albertans. I commend the collaboration between Calgary primary care networks, specialists and family doctors for the work they’re doing together to improve health-care delivery.”
~Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health
Enhanced Primary Care Pathways are web-based tools providing information on diagnosis and treatment options for family physicians. These guidelines are designed to better equip family doctors with the knowledge and support they need to determine if a patient needs an urgent referral to a gastroenterologist or if that patient is better served within the doctor’s practice. As a result, the non-urgent GI wait-list dropped from 2,742 in January 2016 to 30 by February 2018.
“The benefit of having local specialists, in collaboration with primary care physicians, design recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of common GI issues is immeasurable. It enables me to manage my patients’ conditions the same way the specialist would, and it gives my patients the confidence they’re receiving the best care available.”
~Dr. Jessica Orr, Calgary family physician
“I felt great because I didn’t have to wait a long time to see a specialist, take time off work and worry about what might be wrong. I was grateful my doctor took care of the consult with the specialist because she knows the right questions to ask and she knows my history and issues better than I do. It was wonderful leaving her office knowing I had my answer and that I was getting the care I needed without having to wait.”
~Hayley Clarke, gastrointestinal patient
Primary care providers also receive support through the creation of Specialist LINK, a dedicated phone line whereby a family doctor can speak with a gastroenterologist to seek further advice.
“Our culture is very much one of ‘let’s refer it to a specialist’ but we know that’s not always what’s best for the patient or the health-care system. With these pathways, we have the tools and support to provide optimal patient care in a more timely and effective manner because patients are cared for in the right environment from the start.”
~Dr. Christine Luelo, South Calgary PCN medical director
“The collaboration between AHS and the seven Calgary-area PCNs is an example of a new way of working together that strengthens the links between specialists and family doctors while reducing wait times for patients.”
~Dr. Linda Slocombe, Calgary Foothills PCN medical director
“The integration of care is better and we did this in a manner that didn’t require additional resources. We’re using what we already have in a more effective, efficient and collaborative way.”
~Dr. Mark Swain, section head, Gastroenterology and Hepatology, AHS Calgary Zone
The guidelines were developed collaboratively by AHS Calgary Zone and Calgary’s seven Primary Care Networks (PCNs). The success of the project has led to five other specialities in the Calgary area implementing similar programs.