Manitoba Cuts Waits For Doctor Appointments

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The province is expanding the successful Advanced Access initiative to help medical clinics reduce wait times for doctor appointments, Health Minister Theresa Oswald announced today.

“This program helps doctors change the way they make appointments to allow faster access for patients,” said Oswald. “Clinics that have introduced Advanced Access have been able to dramatically reduce waits for their patients, often allowing patients to see a doctor the same day they call.”

Under Advanced Access, an expert team of trainers works with clinics to make scheduling and office-management changes that better allow patients to get appointments when they need them. A key plank of the program is a fundamentally different approach to scheduling that focuses on keeping a block of appointments open each day to better avoid appointment backlogs.

Working directly with individual medical clinics, the trainers help clinics develop a better understanding of how their office works, such as the steps a patient goes through when an appointment is booked or why people may not show up for their appointments.

With provincial support, 16 clinics – 10 in Winnipeg, five in rural Manitoba and one in northern Manitoba – are implementing the Advanced Access initiative. Initial results show that a number of clinics have been successful in reducing waits to see a doctor.

“Advanced Access has been terrific for us and patients are amazed when they are told that they can have an appointment for any purpose within three days,” said Dr. David Ross of the Kildonan Medical Centre. “We are seeing people who used to have to go to the emergency department and the number of people missing appointments has been cut in half. There were challenges learning a new way of thinking, but now that we are up and running we are not looking back.”

Implementing Advanced Access is an approximately 12-month process. Any clinic is eligible to participate.

Milton Sussman, vice-president of community health services with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, said the region is implementing this new way of booking appointments in all its clinics and encouraging the community health centres to do likewise.

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“This system recognizes that, in addition to annual appointments or routine follow-ups that are booked in advance, patients frequently need to see their doctor on short notice,” said Sussman. “It’s not an emergency, but it is a health issue that needs to be dealt with in days, not weeks or months.”

The province is investing $345,000 to support the initiative’s expansion.

Expanding Advanced Access builds on a series of provincial investments to improve Manitobans’ access to a family doctor, the minister noted. Recent investments include:

· investing $11.8 million to expand the successful Physician Integrated Network project that allows doctors to hire other health professionals as part of collaborative teams, improving care for patients with chronic health conditions;

· funding a $6-million pilot project, jointly funded with the federal government, to make innovative use of information technology and Health Links – Info Santè to connect Manitobans with primary care after regular family doctor clinic hours;

· building ACCESS centres in River East and Transcona, with projects in St. James and northwest Winnipeg in development;

· creating the family doctor connection line to help Manitobans find doctors in their area who are accepting new patients; and

· significantly increasing incentives for doctors to live and work in Manitoba and increasing pay for family physicians.

There are 288 more doctors practising in Manitoba than in 1999, the minister noted, including 161 more family doctors and general practitioners. The province’s investments have increased the number of medical school training spaces in Manitoba to 110 per year, the highest in the province’s history.

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