PEI

Here's how planned medical homes and neighbourhoods on P.E.I. will work

The P.E.I. government is planning to change the way primary health care is delivered over the coming years with the establishment of medical homes and neighbourhoods.

‘This is an absolutely vital shift in how health care is provided’

With medical homes, a doctor won't always be your point of entry into the health-care system. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The P.E.I. government is planning to change the way primary health care is delivered over the coming years with the establishment of medical homes and neighbourhoods.

Dr. Kathie McNally, chief medical officer for Health PEI, said the homes and neighbourhoods are a big part of the strategy to deal with the more than 20,000 Islanders on the waiting list for a family doctor.

"This is an absolutely vital shift in how health care is provided," said McNally.

"We can't keep doing what we've been doing. We have to change and we have to find better ways."

The homes and neighbourhoods will create a team-based approach to primary health care. Medical homes will be a group of physicians, nurse practitioners, counsellors, dietitians and social workers who will work together to care for patients.

Electronic medical records will be part of how medical homes and neighbourhoods work, says Dr. Kathie McNally. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The neighbourhoods will include other professionals working in the area: physiotherapists, pharmacists, occupational therapists. It means you won't necessarily see a medical doctor every time you have an appointment.

"Let's say that you have high blood pressure and you need to get your blood pressure checked and your prescription renewed. You know, there are other providers who can do that care," said McNally.

"If I have a sore knee, you know, I could see a physiotherapist."

Working together

The province has said it is aiming to establish five medical homes and neighbourhoods by March.

Last week's capital budget included $64 million over five years for the team practices.

McNally said while the new spaces are welcome, the medical homes won't necessarily be established under a single roof. Electronic medical records will make it possible to operate even if the medical professionals are not all together.

Medical homes aren't buildings, she said, they're teams. Health PEI has established a group to work with professionals and help them move toward becoming a medical home.

"There are more than five groups interested," she said.

"Our implementation committee is working with them in order to figure out where they are in terms of readiness, and then what resources do they need to get to team-based care."

Part of establishing the medical home will be expanding the scope of practice for medical professionals to take full advantage of their skills. This will do more than make the health system more efficient, said McNally. It will help with recruitment and retention.

"This is something that our new physicians and our new health-care professionals want,"  she said.

"They don't want to be practising by themselves and they really want that support."

It will be a years-long process, said McNally, but eventually she wants to see all primary health care professionals working in teams, and every Islander attached to a medical home and neighbourhood.

With files from Kerry Campbell

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