I’ve always been drawn to health care. My dad was a family doctor and my mom was a nurse. I spent the better part of my youth as a patient. When I was a kid, I was hit by a drunk driver, and my high school years were spent in physiotherapy relearning how to walk. My past has given me a life long connection to the patient experience and what matters most in health care.
Before coming to the WWLHIN, I practiced for almost 20 years as kinesiologist. I went back to school to get my MBA so that I could understand the business side of health care. It led me to want to know more about how I could get involved with improving the system.
That’s what my work at the LHIN focuses on. In my day-to-day work, I’m behind the scenes. I don’t regularly interact with patients. I work closely with health care practitioners, the doctors, nurses, service providers, and a range of specialists to help design improvements to the system.
They are the experts. They know what’s working and what’s not. It’s with their help that we can solve the big problems we’re facing in health care.
We use a lot of metrics and data and analysis to understand how the system is performing. We have strict government accountability targets we need to meet. But we don’t go on numbers alone. We use the information to have conversations with the service providers and to understand the reality of what they’re experiencing every day. At the core of everything we do is the principle of putting patients first.
I’ll give you an example of how the metrics and the conversations can make a difference. I’m responsible for chronic disease prevention and management. In Guelph, we were expecting to see really low hospital readmission rates for COPD because of the resources available within the large family health team. Instead, we found that Guelph had the highest readmission rate in the region.
That finding led to a conversation with local stakeholders and the development of a quality improvement plan. We learned that a significant contributing factor for readmission was related to medication. We also noted that readmission was happening within 4 or 5 days of the patient being released from hospital.
The improvements were not costly or complicated. The hospital coordinated patients with similar conditions onto one area to enhance expertise of those providing care. They also updated the availability of current best practice medications. Before the patient was discharged, we took the step of booking an appointment with their family doctors for after care. That way, the doctor could make sure the patient was coping after going home and understood the medication and the care plan. Those steps resulted in a 50% drop in readmission rates.
It costs about $10,000 for the average readmission. While that’s an important savings, it also has a huge impact on the patients and their families when they can avoid the traumatic experience of being readmitted to the hospital. They are much better off in the community and in their own homes.
I love seeing those kinds of results. It reminds me every day that I’m able to help make things better. It feels good knowing that whatever we do, we keep the patient top of mind. We’re committed to acting in the best interest of our residents’ health and well-being with every decision we make.