COLUMN: Health homes, access options mean more care, faster

Premier Tim Houston. (Communications N.S photo)

The following is a column sent to media by Premier Tim Houston’s office.

When I talk to Nova Scotians about healthcare, I often hear two things: Nova Scotians are open to new ways to receive primary care and they want access to a family doctor.

The good news is that the changes we’re making focus on both.

Many Nova Scotians are used to the traditional approach – find a doctor, make an appointment, get care. It wasn’t even all that long ago that a family doctor would make house calls.

But with a global shortage of doctors and healthcare professionals, we need to modernize our system.

What if your doctor retires? What if they move? What if you move? For too long the options were limited.

We’re changing that. We are recruiting more family doctors, nurse practitioners and healthcare professionals to expand and strengthen more than 60 clinics across the province to become ‘health homes.’

So, what’s a health home?

Health homes are made up of teams of healthcare professionals, like doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses, working together collaboratively.

Health homes mean a shift toward patients belonging to a practice, rather than a single doctor. They may also have additional supports, such as dieticians or social workers, on-site. So, if you need medical attention you have a home clinic to call for treatment, where they will have your files so that there is continuity of care.

This way, even if a doctor retires or moves, the patient remains with the practice and can be seen by other providers without interruption in care.

As we move in this direction, we have also created many other ways for Nova Scotians to receive care. This includes YourHealthNS and free virtual care through the app, mobile care in communities and expanding the scope of practice for many healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, to be able to provide routine care by prescribing certain medications and conducting some tests.

We’re already seeing impact. There are 60,000 more primary-care appointments available across the province every single month through these options.

But what if you have a condition that needs to be followed or monitored over time?

There is good news there, too. If you need more care than these services can provide, you can receive a referral through VirtualCareNS to a primary-care clinic or an appropriate specialist who will follow and manage your care for as long as you need.

The future of healthcare will look different – it has to. We need to use new solutions and a range of options to change how healthcare is delivered in our province.

Everyone’s journey may be different, but our destination is the same. It’s getting you more care, faster.

Tim Houston

Premier of Nova Scotia