Thousands of patients from Annapolis Royal and its surrounding communities come to a collaborative care clinic where there’s a variety of health-care professionals under one roof, and doctors say it’s improving access to care.
The clinic based in the Annapolis Community Health Center has a team that includes four family doctors, a nurse practitioner, a family practice nurse, a social worker as well as clerical support staff, said clinic physician Dr. Colin Newman.
Patients may see a social worker for housing needs or a doctor or nurse for blood pressure issues.
“Nurse practitioners can diagnose, order diagnostics, order medication, treat chronic illness. Our scope is pretty broad,” said Ingrid Maclean, the clinic’s nurse practitioner.
Those who work under this collaborative care model like Newman believe it improves a patient’s access to care.
“It’s about a group of people working towards your health, communicating well all throughout that, and seeing the right provider at the right time,” he said.
Amid a shortage of doctors, family medicine residents like Dr. Emma Barlow is in high demand.
She’s trained under a collaborative care model and wants to work under one.
“I can’t imagine practicing as a solo physician without any supports. I think it would be pretty isolating,” Barlow said.
As much as the environment benefits patients, Barlow believes it also helps clinicians.
“Because you have that support group and network to, you know, bounce things off of or talk about certain cases,” Barlow said.
“I can take a vacation and the other physicians kind of pick up the slack. We all cover each other,” said MacLean.
Nova Scotia currently has 95 collaborative care clinics. The province announced plans to add more last week.
Newman said adding more would require people, infrastructure, funding and other payment models besides fees for service.
“The traditional fee for service model that many doctors still use, generally is a challenge in collaborative care,” said Newman.
“Because a lot of the work that we’re doing is interdisciplinary discussions, paperwork, phone calls, non-direct face to face contact with patients and so the fee for service model is generally not an appropriate one.”