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Teaming up for you

"My Health Teams" offer innovative approach to health care

NorWest Chronic Disease Team members, from left: Heidi Manansala, Kelly Deveau, Cindy Peters, Shannon Milks, Renata Cook
NorWest Chronic Disease Team members, from left: Heidi Manansala, Kelly Deveau, Cindy Peters, Shannon Milks, Renata Cook.
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More information about primary care networks

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, March / April 2014

Residents in northwest Winnipeg will soon benefit from a new initiative designed to enhance access to health care for thousands of Manitobans.

Earlier this month, the province announced it would be launching a series of primary care networks to support the work of family physicians.

The networks, known as "My Health Teams," are comprised of various healthcare professionals, and may include nurses, nurse practitioners, midwives, dietitians, mental-health professionals, pharmacists and others.

One of the first My Health Teams to be established in Winnipeg will operate in the Seven Oaks-Inkster community through a partnership that includes the Winnipeg Health Region, NorWest Co-op Community Health, Seven Oaks Hospital and a number of doctors in the area, including those working at Prairie Trails and Kildonan Medical Centres.

Renata Cook, co-ordinator of the primary care network for NorWest, says the overarching goal of the initiative is to help people get better access to quality care by providing specialized services to people in need and freeing up doctors and nurse practitioners to take on new patients. "We're looking at two things," says Cook. "One, is giving access to unattached clients, but also to ensure clients who live in Inkster and Seven Oaks, or who are attached to our partners, have quality chronic disease care," she says.

Here is how it works:

NorWest is currently home to a chronic disease management team that includes a dietitian, a nurse, a clinical pharmacist and a mobility specialist. The members of this team provide expert care to individuals who visit NorWest with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension and COPD.

Under the partnership arrangement, family physicians who are part of the network will soon be able to tap into the NorWest chronic disease team for support.

Essentially, this means a doctor can refer his or her patient to the NorWest chronic disease team for follow-up care, to monitor the patient, and to measure their progress in managing their condition. The time the physician saves by having the patient see the chronic disease team is then used to take on new patients.

In this way, says Cook, the partnership is able to leverage the strengths and skill sets of each member of the network to provide better care, more efficiently and effectively.

As part of the arrangement, the chronic disease team at NorWest will be augmented to take on the extra workload. In addition, the team will be mobile - travelling to the offices of doctors who are part of the network to see patients and clients.

"They (the team) will go from site to site to see clients with chronic conditions. By augmenting the team, we will be able to provide the same services to Seven Oaks-Inkster community residents who are unattached, discharged clients from Seven Oaks Hospital, or who are attached to the private physicians," says Cook. Similar networks will be created to serve residents in other parts of the city.

Dr. Tamara Buchel, who works at Prairie Trail at the Oaks medical clinic, says she jumped at the opportunity to join a primary care network because it would enhance her patients' access to quality care. "Having access to the other health professionals (available through the primary care network) was very appealing to me," she says. "It's very innovative."

She also believes the networks can't help but free up doctors' time to take on new patients. "Absolutely. There is no question that will be a result of these teams and these networks," she says. "There are a lot of family doctors out there who are so overloaded with patients that it is really difficult to get in with them, so their patients end up in the walk-in clinic or the (Emergency Department). Having these teams will allow them to be more available to their current patients and also to take on more patients."

Among other things, Cook says the team will be able to provide nutritional counselling as well as support for people with diabetes, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and smoking cessation. "That is pretty much the priority of the team," she says.

Cook says the network partners are still fine-tuning the details of the working arrangements. But, ultimately, the hope is that any person living in the Inkster-Seven Oaks area who does not have a primary-care provider and wants one, will be able to get one through the network, either by way of ACCESS NorWest or one of the partner member medical clinics.

Wave: March / April 2014

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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