Innovating Community Support Services in Ontario

Health Services in Canada are under enormous pressure: the population is aging, hospital wait times are getting longer and longer and money being spent keeps rising. The current situation is not sustainable. Which is why the Community Support Services sector is one of the most critical component for delivering holistic, close to home, one sector, client-centered healthcare services and end-to-end client and caregiver experience and improving health outcomes, improving efficiency, effectiveness and reducing the cost of services. Unfortunately, this sector is neglected and underfunded.

According to the Census 2016, for the first time in history, there are now more Canadians over 65 years old than under 15. The aging population in Canada is significantly increasing. Statistics Canada foresees that the population of seniors in 2036 will be about 200,000 – 250,000 across Canada.

This means that the healthcare sector must keep up with the rise of senior population to provide appropriate services.

However, as it is today, there is a shortage of medical practitioners and hospital beds capacity that result to patients’ long waiting time. There are many sectors that deliver health services such as home care service organizations, hospitals, primary care service organizations and other community support services (CSS) organizations, but they are often siloed.

The CSS is as equally critical component of the health service sector as the hospitals. The services that the sector provides, through not-for-profit and private organizations, are considered social services such that they extend care and connect to the core of the patient emotionally, mentally and psychologically.

Services such as friendly visiting, telephone assurance program, care for the caregiver, meal delivery services, adult day program, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, foot care, respite care are some of the many social services that the CSS provide.

The CSS sector plays a significant role in providing holistic services for seniors and those with health-related issues; however, this role is not fully recognized. Because the sector is composed of diverse organizations, it sometimes causes misunderstanding about the sector and its contributions when its services are vital.

A couple of years ago, a senior who lived in a little town called Monkton in North Perth, needed care from the CSS providers. There were CSS in Huron and Perth, but only four provider agencies are available in the senior’s town. The senior had to go to multiple places and retell their story to five different agencies to get the CSS they needed.

In 2016, this story inspired the CSS agencies in Huron Perth region to transform the organizational model, processes and system to provide end-to-end client-centred experience to clients and caregivers. The CSS agencies designed and implemented a model that enables the agencies to share client record through a single point-of-access, centralized client intake – a holistic agency approach in planning integrated care and coordinating services. Client information is shared across multiple agencies through the creation of multi-tenanted client database making intake processes more efficient for the agencies, and elevating patient experience as it eliminates re-telling of story.

Today, besides the improvement for clients and system partners, the CSS network structure is allowing the agency representatives to fully engage to the CSS group. What used to be mere ideas are now collaborated into a structure that is enabled by digital transformation. The implementation of the technology strategy was facilitated by INVORG, a private ICT and innovation partner based in London, ON.

The road to the full transformation of the health services in Ontario is going to be long and winding. It is critical that the journey is not only taken by one sector or group of agencies, rather, it must be a collaborative mission of the entire healthcare sector alongside private companies which are driven to operate business with a purpose to help uplift the community.

Innovation is staying relevant. No matter how small or big a company or sector may be, if the leaders’ ultimate goal is to improve their stakeholders’ experience, a simple idea can become a reality through re-engineered processes. Innovation does not have to be grand; sometimes, all one needs is to put ideas into action which are empowering and enabling the status quo.

(Article originally posted on IdeaScale.com)

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