Unique program at KGH helps reduce emergency department visits

Program aimed at "regular" users of the emergency department to get them help elsewhere in the community.

A program targeted at regular users of Kelowna General Hospital’s emergency department has been successful in matching patients to community services. As a result of the program, the hospital has reported a 35 per cent reduction in visits to the emergency department for these patients since 2014.

Under the Familiar Faces program, care plans are developed with individuals who use the department more than 20 times per year. The care plans are then shared and discussed by a working group of health care professionals consisting of both hospital and community staff members. In addition to ED and community services staff, the group also has involvement from psychiatrists, social workers, physicians, and as needed, the RCMP.

“The Familiar Faces program is making a difference for vulnerable patients as well as the health care system,” said Premier Christy Clark, the MLA for Westside-Kelowna. “Matching people to community services not only frees emergency department resources, but provides more effective and preventative care.”

The Familiar Faces initiative was developed in 2013 to align with the Ministry of Health strategic goal of improving patient outcomes, particularly for those requiring chronic and complex care and mental health and substance use treatment, by increasing access to community care services.

“This collaborative approach at Kelowna General Hospital, which is also underway in other parts of British Columbia, aligns with government’s focus of patient-centred care by connecting patients to services in the community,” said B.C.’s Health Minister Terry Lake.

“Those with mental health and substance use disorders need comprehensive support and Familiar Faces brings together many partners including the patient, so the proper pathway to care is developed.”

The working group meets every two weeks to develop new care plans, review existing care plans and share knowledge and understanding of identified patients.

“This program is a perfect example of what can be done to improve patient care when we work together with our partners,” added Steve Thomson, Kelowna-Mission MLA, in whose riding KGH sits.

“Interior Health has worked with a number of community stakeholders and health care professionals on this program which is showing some very positive results.”

In Kelowna, more than 85 per cent of individuals under the Familiar Faces initiative suffer from mental health and/or substance use issues.

As a result of the Familiar Faces program, the Kelowna General Hospital emergency department has experienced a reduction of approximately 394 visits from this patient group since last year and that has helped reduce strains on the emergency department, as well as helping to ensure patients get the services they need within the community.

The Familiar Faces initiative in Kelowna is looking to expand its services over the next year to include children and youth with mental health and substance use issues as well as patients with developmental disabilities and mental health issues.

“It’s rewarding to see what is being accomplished by this team in Kelowna,” said Interior Health Board Chair Erwin Malzer.

“By tailoring care for this patient group and reducing the frequency of their visits to the ED, we’re improving the care experience for all patients since our emergency department staff and physicians are in a better position to support the needs of other patients.”


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