Au­di­tor gen­eral praises progress on care net­works

Calgary Herald - - CITY - KEITH GEREIN kgerein@post­media.com

Man­age­ment of Al­berta’s Pri­mary Care Net­works has im­proved sub­stan­tially over the past five years, but much work re­mains to make the sys­tem more ac­count­able to pa­tients, the prov­ince’s au­di­tor gen­eral says.

“The sig­nif­i­cance of the PCN pro­gram to the health-care sys­tem un­der­scores the im­por­tance of set­ting clear ob­jec­tives and per­for­mance mea­sures for the pro­gram and re­port­ing on re­sults achieved,” Mer­wan Sa­her said in his lat­est re­port, de­liv­ered Thurs­day.

Al­berta cur­rently has 42 Pri­mary Care Net­works, which are groups of fam­ily physi­cian of­fices that work to­gether to care for pa­tients.

Col­lec­tively the net­works are re­ceiv­ing $240 mil­lion in pro­vin­cial fund­ing this year, money that is used to hire other health pro­fes­sion­als such as ther­a­pists, nu­tri­tion­ists and phar­ma­cists, who are shared around each net­work.

The idea is that pa­tients will re­ceive bet­ter care if they have ac­cess to a team of health pro­fes­sion­als all work­ing from the same care plan.

How­ever, re­views of PCNs in re­cent years found wide in­con­sis­ten­cies in how the net­works were per­form­ing.

An au­dit from Sa­her’s of­fice in 2012 called on the health de­part­ment to im­prove its man­age­ment of PCNs, in part by es­tab­lish­ing clear ex­pec­ta­tions, and by bet­ter in­form­ing pa­tients of PCN ser­vices avail­able to them.

Sa­her’s lat­est re­port fol­lowed up on that 2012 au­dit, find­ing re­cent work to im­ple­ment a new gover­nance struc­ture, strengthen physi­cian-pa­tient re­la­tion­ships and other ef­forts was suf­fi­cient to meet the “un­der­ly­ing in­tent” of his ear­lier rec­om­men­da­tions.

How­ever, the fol­lowup au­dit also found con­tin­ued in­con­sis­ten­cies in some ar­eas, in­clud­ing how well PCNs track and re­port their per­for­mance. The re­port said that while per­for­mance mea­sures for PCNs have now been es­tab­lished, the prov­ince must take the next step of set­ting tar­gets and re­quir­ing PCNs to re­port their progress pub­licly.

As well, Sa­her called for the prov­ince to en­sure PCN physi­cians com­plete their “pa­tient pan­els” and com­mit to bet­ter in­form pa­tients of ser­vices pro­vided by the net­works.

The idea is to give each pa­tient a med­i­cal home that co-or­di­nates their care and makes them more ac­tive par­tic­i­pants in their own care, the re­port said.

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