Better collaboration means better care for long-term care residents

Dr. Alistair Ingram, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Chief of Medicine, says shared digital health systems between hospitals and long-term care facilities are the future of healthcare, and will improve the outcomes of older adults being transferred between the two healthcare providers. 

As COVID-19 continues to highlight the need for strong collaboration and clear communication among healthcare providers, particularly when it comes to vulnerable older adults, a unique partnership is creating a digital link between St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton (SJHH) and St. Joseph's Villa in Hamilton, Ont. 

The integrated care co-ordination platform, Harmony, from Canadian-based PointClickCare, will ensure clear, accurate information flows quickly and easily between the two healthcare providers when transferring patients. The intent is to reduce potential for delays in treatment, errors in care, difficulties obtaining accurate diagnoses, and readmissions to hospital, while improving health outcomes for older adults transferred between hospital and long-term care (LTC). 

"This is one example of how we can improve communication between healthcare providers in our own community to make sure no one falls through the cracks," says Dr. Alistair Ingram, Chief of Medicine at SJHH. "Having shared systems that talk to one another is a step towards the future of healthcare, where we see seamless connections between regional healthcare providers and easily accessible patient information wherever the patient is being cared for." 

This fast, bi-directional exchange of medical information will bring many benefits in terms of speed and accuracy of information, which is important now more than ever as we are faced with the challenges of a pandemic.  

For hospital patients going to an LTC home, their hospital team will be able to send medical information to their LTC team – directly from the hospital system to the LTC home. The same will be true in reverse for residents of an LTC home going into hospital. 

"We know transitions between long-term care and hospitals can have the potential for medication errors and poor communication can hurt older adults," says Dr. Hugh Boyd, Medical Director at St. Joseph's Villa. "When transferring care, many of us will try to send thorough information or call directly to receiving physicians, but this can sometimes result in over 100 pages being sent either electronically or via fax. This platform will eliminate clinicians wasting time sorting through fragmented data and allow more time to focus on caring for patients. This will save time and save lives."

Both SJHH and St. Joseph's Villa already collaborate under St. Joseph's Health System (SJHS), a leader in integrated care creating this unique opportunity to test the cooperative pilot project. A multi-disciplinary team from across SJHS will work with PointClickCare, which provides the cloud-based digital health information system used at St. Joseph's Villa, to enable the secure two-way exchange of patient data with Dovetale (Epic), the hospital information system used at SJHH. 

Following the pilot, and once the benefits of the project are evaluated, the hope is to expand the solution to other healthcare providers in Hamilton, across the province, and Canada-wide. Not only will the solution help with the transfer of COVID-19 patients from LTC to hospital, but it will also enable broader goals around integrated care and information sharing, which are fundamental to the success of the newly created Ontario Health Teams. Additionally, the solution could help reduce the number of unnecessary emergency transfers, as well as the time residents may be waiting for treatment. 

The project is funded in part by the CAN Health Network as an innovative solution to address important challenges in our healthcare system. The CAN Health Network was created in July 2019 as a result of a Federal Government investment totaling $7 million, of which the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) each contributed $3.5 million. This investment established the Network in Ontario and the West, with expansion to the East, Quebec and the North to come. 

"The partnership created with the CAN Health Network, PointClickCare and St. Joseph's Health System showcases Canadian talent in supporting our older adults in long-term care homes," says Dr. Dante Morra, Chair of the CAN Health Network. "This initiative will help strengthen our healthcare system by addressing healthcare challenges like COVID-19 while helping Canadian innovators like PointClickCare scale faster across Canada."