For Thompson Division of Family Practice doctors, improving residential care has three elements: streamlining communications with facilities, creating opportunities to enhance skills and increase the scope of diagnostics that can take place at care homes.

“When GPSC funding created the opportunity to resource residential care improvements, there was strong support from our region’s doctors, who are committed to providing residential care as a core patient service,” says Dr Phil Sigalet, a Kamloops family doctor who is also medical director at the residential care facility Pine Grove Care Centre. “In collaboration with facilities’ staff, we identified our priority opportunities for improvement.”

Accessing doctors through a single point of contact
Most of the area’s family doctors have patients living in one of Kamloops’ eight residential care homes and want to continue to treat their own patients as part of long-term continuous care.

“We heard from care home nurses that reaching patients’ doctors in a timely way was a challenge,” says Dr Sigalet. “To make it easier, we created a single point of contact through the hospital switchboard. Staff from any facility can call that number with the patient’s information and the system we’ve put in place ensures someone responds quickly.”

That system includes managing several call groups to provide the greatest likelihood of doctors seeing their own patients, while ensuring there is always 24/7 access to a doctor.

In turn, care homes have made it easier for doctors to reach nursing staff through simplified phone-in systems and reducing the number of passcodes needed to access secure patient floors.

“We’ve improved the way we work together and everyone, particularly patients, has benefitted,” says Dr Sigalet.

Pine Grove Care Centre nurse Judy Crowe agrees. “It’s been good to share perspectives. We see a lot more of some of our doctors now, not just responding to calls but doing proactive care.”

Enhancing skills for quality improvement
To best support patients, Kamloops’ doctors were keen to sharpen their skills in areas of particular importance for residential patients. A series of information sessions was held on topics such as reducing polypharmacy (in conjunction with Shared Care) as well as ongoing, regularly scheduled meetings that bring doctors, nurses and care home staff together to connect and explore further opportunities for improvement.

Improving in-house diagnostics
“Whenever possible, we try to avoid sending residential patients to emergency and much of our program relates to achieving that goal,” says Dr Sigalet.

“Bladder issues are a common reason patients are sent to hospital. Particularly when patients have dementia, it can be impossible to determine the underlying cause without a trip to hospital or an invasive procedure. Thanks to our residential care funding, we have been able to buy bladder scanners for every care home in our region, so we can help more patients right in their home.”

The Thompson Division of Family Practice’s residential care program continues to evolve and build on past success to enhance patient care, now and in the future.