In 2017, Doctors Nova Scotia released a position paper with strong and realistic recommendations for primary health care improvements. One recommendation was to increase access to collaborative care teams. These teams bring family doctors and other health care professionals together to create efficiencies while providing service in a safe and accessible environment.
Currently, there are approximately 50 clinics with collaborative care teams in Nova Scotia. The 2017-2018 provincial budget provides for an investment of $9.6 million to advance and increase the number of collaborative care teams across the province. At present, fewer than 10 per cent of these clinics have a physiotherapist on staff.
We hope that this changes.
Physiotherapists (PTs) play a valuable role in providing care that is comprehensive and patient-focused, including acting as a first point of contact for patients. PTs provide assessment, physiotherapy diagnoses and treatment for a variety of acute and chronic conditions including (but not limited to) musculoskeletal pain, sports injuries, mobility impairments, and arthritis. Referrals to other health care professionals are made when appropriate and in the patient’s best interest. PTs have training in decreasing pain associated with acute injury, easing chronic pain, reducing risk of falls in the elderly, decreasing risk of sports and work injury or re-injury and improving mobility. Patients who see a PT can receive individualized programs to help decrease pain and improve function as an alternative to medication-focused treatments.
Ontario restructured funding so as to extensively integrate physiotherapists into primary health care teams in 2013. There are currently around 80 PTs working in the 60 or so primary health team facilities in that province. Research indicates that the benefits of having PTs as a first point of contact on these primary health care teams include:
– Improved ability for these teams to provide same-day appointments
– Reduced wait times to see physicians for physician-specific conditions
– Improved appropriateness of referral to specialists
– Decreased diagnostic imaging
– Decreased number of future visits for pain management
– Decreased amount of pain medications prescribed
– Improved quality of life
Jurisdictions outside Canada that have included PTs as a key part of primary health care teams have also witnessed benefits similar to those described above.
Physiotherapists want to be part of the solution. We can help make things better for patients, families, health care providers and our health care system by playing a more active role within collaborative care clinics in Nova Scotia in 2018!
Nova Scotia Physiotherapy Association