Case study

Muskoka and Area Ontario Health Team

The Muskoka and Area Ontario Health Team (MAOHT) faces significant challenges due to its vast and dispersed geographical coverage of over 5,000 square kilometers and a population of over 82,000. Seniors make up a considerable portion of the population at 27.1%, higher than the provincial average of 18.3%.The region shares the same relative burden as the province in terms of food insecurity, social isolation, and difficulty with daily activities but experiences higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The mortality rate in the MAOHT is approximately 1.6 times the provincial norm, and residents use Emergency Departments (EDs) more frequently, with 31% having at least one ED visit compared to 23% for Ontario as a whole. Vascular disease accounts for 20% of all admissions from the ED, and 90% of discharged patients require Home Care services. High readmission rates occur when Home Care cannot meet patients' needs, resulting in their return to the ED.
Talk to our team

Background and goals

Despite having 124 physicians, including 47 specialists, practicing in the MAOHT, there is a shortage of specialists per capita, with only 22 specialist physicians per 100,000 population compared to the provincial rate of 114 per 100,000.

Residents rely on tertiary centers elsewhere for 71% of their specialist visits, requiring extensive travel for medical encounters. Additionally, the region faces a staffing challenge, with 20% of current nursing positions remaining unfilled, further complicating healthcare delivery in this unique and challenging geographical context.

Partnership approach

In collaboration with the Muskoka and Area Ontario Health Team (MAOHT), a comprehensive partnership approach has been established to address the unique healthcare challenges of the region. This approach includes an in-patient pathway designed for acutely ill patients and physicians at the local hospital, facilitating virtual consultations and addressing service gaps by arranging day transfers from Muskoka to Humber River Hospital (HRH).

Additionally, the partnership ensures a seamless transition for patients when they are discharged home, with virtual support provided to Home Care services and the patients’ circle of care, with plans to eventually incorporate in-person coverage in dedicated Limb-Preservation clinics. Furthermore, the MAOHT benefits from SCOPE support, which is extended to their primary care physicians, with 77 clinicians already utilizing these resources to enhance patient care. Own Health directly supports SCOPE with their vascular and lower extremity wound needs.

Implementation and challenges

The partnership between Own Health and MAOHT iterated over a six month period and is an ongoing effort. The key stakeholders involved in this collaboration include Huntsville Memorial Hospital, Bracebridge Hospital, Paramed (home care clinic), Closing the Gap (home care clinic), SCOPE+, and the MAOHT.

The work has been conducted in several phases, starting with the SCOPE program's initiation, later expanding to provide coverage for inpatients. Solutions were sought to address service gaps, including issues related to footwear, medical optimization, debridement of low-risk wounds, and major amputations, with the recruitment of local providers to build a distributed network of care.

Operational adjustments were crucial during this process, particularly concerning the logistics of day transfers for patients requiring surgical interventions and other tertiary specialist care. Additionally, innovative approaches were developed to facilitate the transportation of patients in the community, including the use of virtual ER beds that allowed patients to utilize ambulance services for transport to and from their care destinations. This has been especially important for patients who might otherwise face barriers to accessing necessary healthcare services due to financial and transport constraints

Outcomes and impact

The partnership between MAOHT and Own Health has achieved significant positive outcomes and impact. Previously, patients endured long wait times of 6-12 months for vascular consultation. The existing collaboration has enabled access to vascular assessment within 12-24 hours. ER visits for lower extremity wounds have decreased, resulting in fewer hospital admissions and shorter hospital stays, with more patients being discharged into Own Health-supported community pathways. Notable achievements include the preservation of limbs and the valuable education provided to patients. The program's proactive approach has allowed for early detection and intervention, preventing patients from developing end-stage foot wounds and complications.

Looking ahead, the relationship between MAOHT and Own Health remains strong, with both parties actively pursuing funding opportunities from Ontario Health to support various aspects of these pathways. The project's future direction includes expanding coverage to include the correctional facility and long-term care facilities, with a focus on developing funded pathways to sustain and further enhance this impactful work.