Ontario Health Team announced for Chatham-Kent

Lori Marshall addresses the crowd at the announcement for the Chatham-Kent Ontario Health Team on December 7, 2019 (Photo via CKOHT Twitter)

As part of the province’s new model for healthcare, Chatham-Kent is officially getting its own Ontario Health Team.

The Chatham-Kent Ontario Health Team (CKOHT) was announced Saturday morning at the Chatham-Kent Family Health Team’s Chatham site. Under the new model, a total of 15 local health agencies will work together as partners in the team including Alzheimer Society Chatham-Kent, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, Erie St. Clair LHIN Home and Community Care and Chatham-Kent Hospice.

The CKOHT is one of the first 24 teams in Ontario to implement the provincial government’s new vision of organizing and delivering coordinated health care with a goal of ending hallway medicine and improving patient outcomes.

“This is an exciting time for health care in Ontario as we finally break down the long-standing barriers that have prevented care providers from working directly with each other to support patients throughout their health care journey,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

CEO and President of Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, Lori Marshall, called the announcement of the CKOHT a big day for the community.

“One of the major differences going forward is the greater collaboration between all the partnering organizations,” said Marshall. “Right now we all operate in a pretty silo kind of fashion. It’s not uncommon for people to be complaining about the fact that they have to tell their story multiple times or that they don’t necessarily know how to get from one organization to another if they need multiple services.”

Marshall estimated it will take around five years for the CKOHT to reach its maturity. Health care providers will continue to support all patients under the new team. However, during the first year, the CKOHT will focus heavily on programs and initiatives for adults 55 years or older with at least one chronic disease or dementia or who are in a palliative stage.

“We felt that was the appropriate place to start because it is a large segment of our population. It’s probably the part of the population that accesses the most and different kinds of services. It’s a great group for us to get it right with before we go on and take on other additional populations from within Chatham-Kent,” she said.

As it continues its work to integrate care, the CKOHT will put round-the-clock navigation and care coordination services in place for patients and families. The CKOHT will also take a more digital approach to healthcare, by providing caregivers access to patient records stored across multiple health service providers.

“I think the future for all of us, no matter what industry we’re in, is greater digital presence,” said Marshall. “That opens up lots of different opportunities to share information between organizations, still within privacy legislation. I think right now people are likely frustrated that we don’t necessarily pass information between providers and they’re really having to start at the beginning every time they go to a different provider.”

Work will be rolled out in phases with the CKOHT beginning to implement some of its proposed programs and services in 2020. Patients will continue to receive care from the providers they are familiar with, whether or not those agencies are part of an Ontario Health Team.  Marshall said that CKOHT officials will communicate with patients and families about any changes they can expect during the transition.

“We’re going to be doing lots of engagement and sharing information,” she explained. “The other thing that’s important to know is that this does not replace any of our existing organizations.”