Information and Referrals (I&R)
I&R or Information and Referrals is the art, science and practice of bringing people and services together. It’s an integral part of the human services sector.
There are several over-arching principles within the I&R process such as:
-The right to personalized info in order to access services and resources
Providing unbiased and comprehensive information with options
-Ensuring information is accurate, current and presented in a helpful manner
-Information regarding community services is relevant and adapting to changing needs
-Info be presented in a simple, non-judgmental and non-patronizing manner
-Confidentiality is paramount
Our I&R Team model at the WWLHIN consists of 3 full-time staff, 7 hour staff and 2 full-time extended hour staff as well as one .3 part-time staff. Two of our I&R staff members are bilingual in English and French.
“At the WWLHIN, we have a wonderful I&R team that support each other daily. We have so many stories and we often joke that we should write a book about the various calls we get or have a “call of the day”, it seems to make our day go by quite quickly some days with the variety of inquiries we get at I&R.” – Stefany Kawka, I&R Manager.
The educational requirement to be an I&R team member is a 2 year diploma, medical terminology course and Alliance Information Referral System (AIRS) certification as I&R specialists (CIRS). AIRS certification stands for enquiry/call centre practitioners who work directly with clients whether on the phone or in person and provide information and referral and being capable of providing advocacy or crisis intervention if required. Recertification is required every 2 years by submitting documentation outlining at least 10 hours of additional professional development.
I&R and the Patient Experience
Our primary role is to respond to all new callers, walk-in clients and email inquiries. Information gathering is crucial to assist in determining whether a referral is initiated or whether clients are referred to other community support services that might be more appropriate. Referrals initiated are triaged to determine urgency. I&R staff initiate new referrals for client’s requiring nursing, assistance, personal care, home/bathroom/mobility assessments, caregiver respite, social work, mental health issues, long-term care and retirement home inquiries, etc. I&R also link patients with services in the community (e.g. Meals on wheels, house cleaning, home maintenance, snow removal, adult day programs and overnight stay respite, transportation, shopping, friendly visiting, gentle exercise, Alzheimer’s/dementia services, hearing loss and blind low vision). Our team consults and works closely with the Intake care coordinators for direction in order to achieve the best outcome for patient and families.
The range of calls are so diverse and in order to cope, we as a team are constantly encouraging debate in order to inspire creativity, sharing info, brainstorming, problem-solving as this is critical to the success of the team and providing optimum results for our patients and families.
In I&R, we like to analogize, each call is “like a box of chocolates you never know what you’re gonna get”.