I have been hearing about something called ‘Health Links’. What are they and how will they help better coordinate care in the community?
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is improving care for seniors and others with complex conditions through Health Links. This innovative approach brings together health care providers in a community to better and more quickly coordinate care for patients with high needs.
In 2013-14, the Central West LHIN played a key role in the collaborative design and implementation of Health Links, being one of the first of Ontario’s 14 LHINs to fully implement Health Links across the entire geographic area. Five local Health Links were created, each having adopted a common business plan and a standard model of care to ensure a consistent experience for patients and providers. Health Links in the Central West LHIN include Bramalea and Area, Brampton and Area, Dufferin Area, North Etobicoke - Malton - West Woodbridge Area, and Bolton - Caledon Area.
When different health care providers work as a team to care for a patient, they can better coordinate the full patient journey through the health system, leading to better care for patients. Health Links will help to ensure that patients with complex conditions:
- No longer need to answer the same question from different providers.
- Have support to ensure they are taking the right medications appropriately.
- Have a care provider they can call, eliminating unnecessary provider visits.
- Have an individualized comprehensive plan, developed with the patient and his/her care providers who will ensure the plan is being followed.
Health Links encourages greater collaboration between existing local health care providers, including family care providers, specialists, hospitals, long-term care, home care and other community supports. With improved coordination and information sharing, patients receive faster care, spend less time waiting for services and are supported by a team of health care providers at all levels of the health care system.
Health Links puts family care providers at the centre of the health care system. By bringing local health care providers together as a team, Health Links helps family doctors to connect patients more quickly with specialists, home care services and other community supports, including mental health services. For patients being discharged from hospital, the Health Link allows for faster follow-up and referral to services like home care, helping reduce the likelihood of re-admission to hospital.
All Health Links have a coordinating partner such as a Family Health Team, Community Health Centre, CCAC or hospital. All members of the Health Link must be willing and able to collaborate in order to better and more quickly coordinate health care services for high-need patients such as seniors and others with complex conditions.