Expanding care at Independent Health Facilities brings Ontario one step closer to improving access to care

Ontario has formally announced the expansion of surgeries performed in private facilities. I have enjoyed reading the dialogue about this topic over the past few days. All agree that reform is required to address waitlists. Most (at least publicly) believe that any changes must not exacerbate the inequities to access to care.

There are over 800 Independent Health Facilities (IHFs) in Ontario. Most of these are diagnostic, but a small percentage perform ambulatory surgeries. These IHFs are governed by legislation, and quality outcomes are measured and monitored.

There are many benefits to this expansion. For starters, not everyone would choose to work in a hospital environment if there were other options. Admittedly, at least in Ontario, the compensation for staff tends to be more lucrative when pensions are factored in. But hospitals can also be very complex, hierarchical and highly siloed. A smaller team, in a different environment will be more attractive to many front line care providers.  

In addition, patient choice is also of paramount importance. Hospitals can be intimidating and overwhelming for many patients. Especially the big ones. While it seems trite, even parking can be a deterrent, setting the tone during an already stressful time.  It is not unreasonable to expect that additional facilities can make access to care easier and more convenient for some patients, staff and physicians.

Ontario Health Teams were developed with the goal of providing new models of care that are more connected to patients in their communities. Today’s announcement is one step closer to achieving just that. This expanded model of care also provides the opportunity for more collaboration between primary and community care as it relates to patients pre and post operative care. Requiring these clinics  to leverage innovative technologies that better integrate care could be a baseline requirement.

Our healthcare system should offer the right care, in the right place, at the right time. But the product of this equation is highly personal. The expansion of IHFs in Ontario is timely. If these facilities are evaluated based on well established quality metrics, fairly address waitlists and provide a choice for patients and providers, then all of us will benefit.

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