In our 2011 report, Winning Conditions to Improve Health Care, we predicted that it was “likely that some reorganization of LHINs and CCACs <would> occur.” From our perspective, we believed that reorganization would be “a huge opportunity to better align decisions and resources with priorities and purpose.”
This opportunity is now here. As of June 21, 2017, the CCACs have merged with the LHINs across Ontario. Although we all agree that change was and is needed to integrate care and improve patient and caregiver outcomes and experiences, we also know that structural changes alone won’t do the job. Ontario needs a fundamental shift to embrace patients and caregivers as partners in healthcare. Merging organizations is just a small piece of the puzzle.
Around the time that the LHINs were created in 2006, The Change Foundation looked at how integration was being done around the world. That research helped us identify key elements that are critical for integrated care. We have highlighted those elements in our work over the past few years. They are:
- Include and value patient and caregiver perspectives
- Provide seamless care
- Pay attention to relationships, not just governance structures
- Funding should follow the patient
- Performance management should be linked to patient outcomes
- Information management needs to be integrated and accessible
In our view, many of these foundational elements still need development in Ontario. The goal of an integrated system of care, which will lead to improved outcomes and better patient and caregiver experiences, doesn’t come about without a wholistic approach to change.
Take the Partners Advancing Transitions in Healthcare (PATH) project in Northumberland, as an example. PATH was a partnership between patients, caregivers and 12 cross-sector health care organizations in Cobourg. By co-designing the approach to care, based on patient and caregiver experience and input, they designed changes to improve people’s experience moving within and across health care organizations in each patient’s healthcare journey. There was a notable cultural shift in Northumberland—within health care organizations and the community—that is still evident today.
More recently, as part of our Changing CARE initiative, the Change Foundation is collaborating with four partnerships in Ontario that will change the way care organizations, providers, caregivers and patients work together. This shift will be achieved by developing programs and resources that address four areas of caregiver needs—Communications, Assessment, Recognition and Education—identified through extensive engagement and partnership with caregivers and providers. Most importantly, each of the Changing CARE partnerships demonstrated a true commitment to co-design with caregivers, and a passion and dedication to make meaningful change. They ‘get’ it. Yes, a structural change will be part of their implementation, but it won’t be the driver of the needed cultural shift.
When we look across the system, we are encouraged by the more prominent role that caregivers are playing in Ontario’s health care landscape today compared to 2006. As we said in Winning Conditions, “To accomplish [an integrated health system], we need to seek and be guided by the lived and expressed experience of the people now navigating the health care system.”
Although there is work to do to get more of the fundamental pieces in place to support caregivers within the system, we have begun tapping into their expertise. As the positive momentum continues, we are hopeful that the recognition and awareness of the role of caregivers will continue to grow among Ontario health care organizations and providers. It is only when patients and caregivers are true partners that we’ll be able to achieve true integration.