Patient's First Act Special Edition

Following the recent passage of the Patients First Act, 2016, our local health system has been abuzz with talk about what the coming changes mean for providers and patients alike. While the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care provides information on their website – links to info are below – rather than waiting until my next monthly blog in January I thought it may be helpful to share a snapshot via a Special Edition blog.

On December 7, 2016, the Ontario government passed the Patients First Act, 2016, legislation designed to help patients and their families obtain better access to a more local and integrated health care system, improving the patient experience and delivering higher-quality care. The Act is part of the government’s ongoing work under the Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care to create a more patient-centered health care system in Ontario.

Ontario’s 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) are currently responsible for planning and funding of hospitals, long-term care homes, community services and mental health and addiction services across Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Burlington and most of Norfolk. Under the new Act, LHINs will also be responsible for home  care (currently the function of Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) funded by the LHIN) and primary care planning to ensure that patients are getting better coordinated care, and that the health system is more integrated and responsive to local needs.

Patients receiving home care services will continue to do so – ensuring a seamless transition is paramount. Integrating home care under the LHIN is intended to create administrative savings and those savings will be reinvested into patient care.

Once fully implemented, changes supported by the new legislation will also:

  • Strengthen connections between primary care providers, inter-professional health care teams, hospitals, public health and home and community care to ensure a smoother patient experience and transitions.
  • Improve access to primary care for people in Ontario, including a single number to call when they need health information or advice on where to find a new family doctor or nurse practitioner.
  • Establish smaller geographic planning areas within each LHIN known as sub-regions. Looking at care patterns through a smaller lens will help LHINs to better understand and address patient needs at the local level and work with local health system leaders to build more seamless local health care service delivery.  The HNHB LHIN has established six sub-regions and you can learn more here.
  • Formally connect LHINs and local boards of health to leverage their community expertise and ensure local public health units are involved in community health planning.
  • Add the promotion of health equity and development and implementation of health promotion strategies to the LHINs' mandate.
  • Ensure patients have a voice in local planning by establishing a patient and family advisory committee in each LHIN.
  • Enhance accountability by giving LHINs powers to investigate or supervise health service providers and negotiate service accountability agreements with the providers.
  • Ensure patient medical information continues to be confidential and secure, including in the case of an investigation, in which case investigators would have to obtain patient consent to access personal health information and patient information would be de-identified.
  • Ensure high-quality patient care is provided consistently across the province by having Health Quality Ontario, Ontario's health quality advisor, work with experts to recommend clinical care standards.
  • Emphasize the LHINs' responsibility to comply with the French Language Services Act in the planning, design, delivery and evaluation of services.

With the passage of the Patients First Act, 2016, implementation begins. The ministry, LHINs, CCACs and health care partners are working together on capacity and readiness planning. Readiness assessments will be conducted at each LHIN to inform a staged transition with the first LHINs expected to move to the new model beginning in May 2017 and all LHINS completing the process by the end of September 2017.

Implementation planning is focused on ensuring a smooth transition of home and community care service delivery and management from CCACs to the LHINs through collaborative project planning, a focus on continuity of care, and increasing partnership.

With a system change of this magnitude there are understandably many questions and concerns being raised. To help explain the implications of the Patients First Act, 2016 and dispel many of the myths surrounding these changes, our colleagues at the ministry have created a number of helpful resources:

As we work closely with our CCAC colleagues through this transition, continuing to deliver high quality patient-centred care within our local health system is our commitment to you.

If you or your organization would like to be featured in a future blog or share a patient story in one of our Voices in the Community videos you can reach us through our office, or if you’re on social media via our Twitter handle -@HNHB_LHINgage. Your feedback and questions are always welcome.