Family Medicine Matters

Change is Coming – What Does it Mean for You?

March 20, 2019

Jennifer-2_edited1

Change is coming. and with it, the arrival of Ontario Health Teams over the next few years. 

Many of you have reached out to me and the OCFP, wondering what the government’s health reforms will mean for you in your practice. Allow me to share what we know so far, what we still need to know, and how we are supporting you to ensure your essential role is recognized and reflected in the changes ahead.


Initial ‘early adopter’ phase

The Ontario Health Team (OHT) is meant to serve a geographical area of up to 300,000 people, with a goal of connecting healthcare providers and services in that area in a seamless and comprehensive way. Initial information notes that a combination of at least three sectors is to be involved and could include family physicians and primary care, hospitals, long-term care homes, public health, home care, mental health and addictions services, among others.

Who heads and governs this team will depend on who comes forward with an Expression of Interest (EOI) in your community.  A Guidance Document for an OHT, along with the EOI, is expected soon for the first, ‘early adopter’ phase, outlining the government’s minimum requirements for how these teams are put together. As you can imagine, there are a lot of organizations with their own governing structures that will need to come together in order to function effectively.


Ensuring family physician leadership

The Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP) has been tirelessly championing the need for family physician leadership and the central role that family medicine and primary care needs to play in any high-functioning healthcare system – and by extension in any regional team. We have shared our research, met with government, and discussed and deliberated with other organizations who work with and for family physicians to ensure that message is delivered, heard and acted upon.

Family physician leadership - based on a foundation of primary care - is essential for transformation to fully succeed, as evidence from other jurisdictions clearly shows. How could it not be, when family doctors are the first point of contact for patients entering our healthcare system? And when, as a sector, we see by far more patients in a day than any other part of the system?

Beyond conveying that important message to Ministry staff and policymakers, the OCFP is helping to further hone the leadership acumen inherent in our profession by building a mentoring network for those family physicians who are working to lead change – or wishing to do so – in their own practice context. To kick-off the network, the OCFP will host its first-ever Leadership in Primary Care conference on March 25, 2019. Family Physicians will gather to ensure a shared understanding of the vision of the Patient Medical Home, better understand the evolving provincial context, and hear about the value of networking across the profession to support family physicians in practice.

I invite you to join us for what I expect will be an invigorating day of certified learning. The link to register for the webcast is here or to participate in the full day is here.


Different practice models, different ways of engaging

So, what should family physicians do in this early stage of the OHT rollout?

Some regions already have built-in connections through structures such as Family Health Teams, Health Links, primary care networks and rural communities (Northern Health Hub), while others have less developed connections. You may be a family doctor already functioning with your local 'team' and already know who your local family physician and primary care leadership might be in a potential OHT. Our colleagues at the Section on General and Family Practice have indicated that family doctors who are part of teams that are considering an OHT Expression of Interest submission can connect with them at [email protected], to receive support in decision making.

You may be taking a ‘wait and see’ approach as new information is released and the parameters for the OHT become clearer. Indeed, the majority of OCFP members work more independently – perhaps by choice or perhaps by circumstance – and will likely choose to engage down the road, during the broader provincial rollout.

Regardless of your practice model and context, we anticipate that you’ll have questions as this health transformation unfolds. Speak to other family physician leaders in your community about some of the activity already underway, or email us at [email protected]. If we don’t have an answer to your question right away, we’ll reach out to the Ministry to try and get it.


Supporting members through change

Change can be worrisome, burdensome, challenging - and an opportunity. Sometimes the pace of change is too slow, sometimes it seems to happen in one fell swoop.

You will continue to provide excellent care to your patients as this change happens. You may choose to be part of leadership in that change. Regardless, you will need to know how these new structures will serve you and your patients better. We will keep striving to support you and keep you informed; we will continue to advocate for a system that serves you and your patients more effectively, seamlessly and equitably.

Stay tuned and informed with our Pulse, monthly eNews and my President’s Messages. We are also on Twitter as @OntarioCollege and @OCFP_President. Please send us your questions and concerns. We will strive to answer them to the best of our ability.

Yours in making the system better,

Jennifer Young