Team approach improves patient care

Family doctors have improved the way they practice medicine since joining Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network 10 years ago.

Dr. Brian Ritchie, of Ermineskin Medical Clinic, was one of the founding members of Edmonton Southside PCN in 2005. He recalls how doctors had to refer patients to services outside of his clinic and when it came time to conceive how the first PCN in Alberta would operate; all the physicians were in agreement.

“We all had the same basic needs for our patients. We certainly have all experienced the same frustrations of trying to access certain resources. We bounced ideas off of each other and came up with an action plan. We created priorities and it didn’t take long to realize things like chronic disease management were a high priority,” says Dr. Ritchie.

Before the PCN was established, clinics like Ermineskin would have part-time nurses but they worked partly as a receptionist and didn’t use all their skills. When the first primary care nurse was hired for the clinic, she would use a trolley as a travelling office to visit patients.
Patients also had to adapt to the change of seeing a nurse and not always seeing their family doctor.

“It didn’t take them very long to realize this works out. You emphasize to them that we’re a team and if you don’t see your doctor, the information is being shared and we are all fully aware of what’s going on. Ten years after the fact, it’s the norm,” says Dr. Ritchie.

The team has grown at Ermineskin to include nurse practitioners, behavioural health consultants, respiratory therapists, exercise specialists and registered dietitians. There are no more trolleys travelling from office to office. Now PCN staff have their own space in the clinic.
“Having the other health care professionals on your site, as opposed to having to send your patients somewhere else has really worked out well. We encouraged this,” says Dr. Ritchie.

As the awareness increased over the last 10 years about PCN services, feedback has been positive from patients.

“Instead of the doctor all the time, they are seeing whoever they should be seeing. Sometimes we have joint visits with the patient where the team is involved. What I’m enjoying is I’m busier with the things a physician should be doing and less busy with the things that other professionals on the team could and should be doing. But I had no options many years ago,” he says.

“The PCNs are here to stay and they are a good idea. I can truly say I’m very happy I got involved in the PCN and I’m sure all the other doctors from the beginning will say the same.”