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How Do Ontarians Experience Integrated Care?

New report compares care coordination and communication on an international scale.

Relay races are rarely won because of how fast any individual runner runs. Instead, relay teams spend hours practicing the baton pass. It is the careful coordination and communication between team members in that handoff that determines the winner. And it’s often the same in our health system: the highest risk to good care outcomes may occur during key moments of transition when clear communication and coordinated are required.

In my blog last week, I discussed how integrated care is a key focus if we want to improve quality in the health care setting. This week I’d like to take a closer look at the tools that facilitate integrated care – specifically how care coordination and communication support the “handoffs” as patients move through different parts of the health system.

Today Health Quality Ontario is releasing our latest report, Experiencing Integrated Care, based on new data from the 2014 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults.

The report reveals that in some aspects Ontario’s health system is improving in the way we communicate and coordinate care, how we “pass the baton.” In fact, when we review certain measures related to integrated care for people (aged 55 and older), such as how often a person’s regular doctor helps arrange follow-up care, Ontario ranks among the best nationally and internationally when compared to 10 other countries.

In fact, 82 percent of Ontario respondents feel confident that their regular care provider will help make follow-up appointments with other providers – a result that places Ontario among the best in Canada and on par with other top-performing countries. Also, most Ontario respondents (90 percent) said they had a point of contact to ask questions about their treatment after leaving the hospital – a result that positions Ontario among top-performing countries.

Still, we could improve on other aspects of care coordination. Too often in the transfer of information between providers, the baton pass could be smoother. Ontario falls behind other countries when it comes to giving patients written information about their care after they have been hospitalized; ensuring a patient’s medical information and test results are on hand at the time of an appointment with a specialist; and guaranteeing a health professional is available to answer questions between visits.

Specifically, of Ontarians in the study who had been hospitalized, 75 percent said that they received written information about what to do and symptoms to watch for when they returned home. That percentage is much higher for respondents in the U.S. (89 percent) and New Zealand (87 percent).

Another telling statistic reveals that in the past two years, 10 percent of Ontario respondents said their specialist doctor did not have their basic medical information or test results ready at their appointment. The percentages elsewhere are much lower: three percent and five percent, for France and the Netherlands, respectively.

More results are included in Experiencing Integrated Care, and I hope you will take the time to explore the report. Collectively, the results give us a good indication of how well our health system works at points of transition – and where it could be strengthened. We know when various parts of the health system are well integrated, patients and their caregivers have the information they need to make informed decisions.

To stretch my running imagery just a bit further, I’d argue when it comes to improving the health system’s performance, it’s more of a marathon than a sprint – and comparison data like the kind captured in Experiencing Integrated Care helps push us forward.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how well you feel your care is coordinated and communicated. Please Tweet me @DrJoshuaTepper or email info@hqontario.ca.

Previous Article Integration: The Next Quality Frontier
Next Article A Cross-Sectorial Look at Integrated Care and the Patient’s Perspective
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