For decades, the healthcare system has been pushed to its limits. Exacerbated by the pandemic, this system-wide strain often impacts those already facing barriers to care. If we are to ensure that no patient gets left behind, we must build back a better healthcare system that meets the needs of all.
Creating a better system requires a team approach. Teamwork is the premise behind the creation of the Mid-West Toronto Ontario Health (MWT-OHT) team. Launched in November 2020, this new model brings Women’s College Hospital together with four other downtown hospitals and over 40 community organizations to better connect patients and providers in their community and create a more seamless healthcare experience. The MWT-OHT was instrumental in the COVID-19 response for downtown Toronto’s west-end for both testing as well as vaccinations. This partnership will continue well beyond the pandemic as a community-oriented healthcare approach becomes more embedded into everyday work and makes healthcare more accessible.
Creating an equitable health system includes serving communities that are hard to reach. Women’s is working with partners and donors to combat these systemic issues, leveraging expertise and scaling up programs typically only accessible in urban cores, to support Ontarians at large. Programs based out of Women’s, like META:PHI and TAPMI, are designed to do just that.
From Timmins to Sarnia, the META:PHI program (Mentoring, Education, and Clinical Tools for Addiction: Partners in Health Integration) is helping individuals who struggle with their substance use. The network supports clinicians across Ontario in delivering high-quality care to patients with substance use disorders across a variety of care settings. In order to improve the current healthcare system, it facilitates the creation of integrated care pathways for addiction between emergency departments, withdrawal management services, rapid access addiction medicine (RAAM) clinics and primary care.
“Individuals seeking help for their substance use may have many touchpoints in the healthcare system. By educating clinicians across multiple care settings on how to best support and then direct patients on to the appropriate next step, META:PHI builds system capacity,” shared Kate Hardy, network director of META:PHI “Having a province-wide program ensures that we’re maximizing this model of care for all Ontarians.”
Accessing care for other chronic conditions, like pain, has also been traditionally difficult to do. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians experience chronic pain and there is an opportunity to improve the coordination of patient care.
The treatment and management of pain is complex, requiring a wide range of programs and services to help those in pain function. TAPMI (Toronto Academic Pain Medicine Institute), based at Women’s, is made up of five major pain centres in Toronto who are working together to share care so that patients have access to an interdisciplinary team of chiropractors, doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, psychologists and social workers.
“By centralizing care and triaging patient referrals to the most appropriate pain programs and services, we can best meet a patient’s care needs,” says Dr. Tania Di Renna, medical director of TAPMI. “Time is of the essence for those managing chronic pain, so system solutions like TAPMI ensure timely access to care and support primary care providers with the ongoing care of these patients.”
Both of the programs facilitate coordination of care for an individual and overcome some of the traditional silos that exist between healthcare organizations.
Programs like these drive health system change. Supporting the greatest number of patients in the most efficient model possible frees up system capacity and supports individuals in Ontario towards a better future.
This momentum is fueled by support from across the province. Thanks to the LCBO and its province-wide equity campaign, over $4.9M was raised to support the hospital’s regional and provincial priority needs, including programs like RAAM and META:PHI.