Collaborative family practice teams work to alleviate strain on health care system

    Photos by Drake Lowthers -- Kathy Anne Connell, primary health care manager Antigonish–Guysborough, said collaborative family practice teams will bring better care for patients, help attract and keep new family doctors, improve the whole health care system in Nova Scotia, and hopefully change the “cure” mindset to health management.

    ANTIGONISH: Representatives from the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) held a conversation in Antigonish last Wednesday to share information about collaborative family practice teams, hear participants’ thoughts, and learn what they need to know to make these teams a success in Nova Scotia.

    “Most of our conversation tonight is discussing what the current needs for Antigonish County are,” said Kathy Bell, director, primary health care, Eastern Zone. “And how can we collectively help with that in regards to our plan moving forward with collaborative family practice teams.”

    Bell said the only way NSHA knows if they’re on the right track with their plan for collaborative family practice teams and where they’re going is by actually getting out and talking to people who currently use or will use the services.

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    A collaborative family practice team includes family doctors, nurse practitioners, family practice nurses, and other health professionals working together as part of a team to provide comprehensive, accessible, coordinated, community-oriented, and a continuity of care for patients.

    These teams not only help people without family doctors, they save time and money, but more importantly, are expected to help alleviate the strain on the province’s overburdened health care system.

    “We work with physicians in the community to understand the practice, the people they care for, the needs of the community,” Bell said. “From that, [we] collectively determine what are the resources they think that may need to be added to their team or their community to meet the needs of the people in the community.”

    Those accessing the service could see a nurse practitioner, a doctor, or another member of the family practice team, depending on the reason for the visit.

    “Being a part of a collaborative working team of health care professionals, it increases access to the health care provider,” said Kathy Anne Connell, primary health care manager Antigonish–Guysborough. “It also gives more diversity so that the doctor can see the more complex cases, and that seems to make it a more robust service.”

    She said collaborative family practice teams will bring better care for patients, help attract and keep new family doctors, improve the whole health care system in Nova Scotia, and hopefully change the ‘cure’ mindset to health management.

    For the small group in attendance at the session in Antigonish, it wasn’t a question of if but rather a question of when they could start benefiting from collaborative practice teams.

    “Some teams unfortunately could take anywhere from six to eight months to put together, as it has to start with a physician,” Connell said. “You have to start with the conversation, understand what the needs are and what the resources are, it takes time through the interview process, so it’s really a ripple effect.”

    The idea of a collaborative family practice team is not new to Nova Scotia and there is hardly a community in the Eastern Zone without one or not in talks about collaborative family practice teams.

    “Antigonish is getting into the conversation, which is excellent. Guysborough already has a collaborative family practice team, in Canso there is work to be done, but it’s really linked to the team in Guysborough,” Bell said. “There’s one in Port Hawkesbury, one in Arichat, we’re starting one in all of our First Nations in the eastern zone. They’re in Baddeck, Inverness, Cheticamp, we’re getting Neils Harbour off the ground, there’s two in North Sydney, one in New Waterford, one in Glace Bay, two actively functioning in Sydney with three more on the go.”