For immediate release
Study comparing primary care models demonstrates the effectiveness of Ontario’s Community Health Centres
TORONTO (March 6.2012) – A new study that compares the performance of Ontario’s primary care models demonstrates Ontario’s Community Health Centres (CHCs) are the most effective model keeping people out of emergency departments – even though the populations they serve have more complex health care needs.
The study, conducted by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), investigated seven models which have different methods for compensating family physicians. The study zeroed in on differences in demographics of the populations served, as well as how often their patients/clients used the emergency department.
- Based on CHC clients’ characteristics, the study found that the number of visits by CHC clients to emergency departments was 21 per cent less than what was expected.
- Meanwhile, emergency department use by other models was higher than expected. For example, emergency department use by people served by Family Health Teams (FHTs) was 13 per cent more than expected, even though the study showed FHTs serve healthier and wealthier populations.
- In contrast, the study’s demographic analysis confirmed that CHCs connect services with populations who have traditionally faced barriers accessing primary care and whose living circumstances leave them vulnerable to poor health. According to the study: “CHCs served populations from lower income neighbourhoods, had higher proportions of newcomers and those on social assistance, had more severe mental illness and chronic health conditions….”
“This study clearly demonstrates Ontario’s Community Health Centres’ effectiveness at easing pressures on the acute care system. And this effective quality of care is being applied to populations whose health is most at risk,” says Adrianna Tetley, Executive Director of the Association of Ontario Health Centres, which represents the province’s 73 Community Health Centres.
Tetley noted many of the populations CHCs target are the very same populations referenced in the recent
Drummond report as being heavy users of Ontario’s acute care system. She echoed calls from ICES for more
study into Ontario’s primary care models, and added there is a special need to examine the potential benefits
of a strengthened role for Community Health Centres as the province builds new primary care plans. Currently
CHCs serve less than four per cent of the province’s population.
“Primary care is the foundation of our entire health care system so it’s very important to get the right mix of primary care models,” said Tetley. “What this research seems to suggest is that the health of individuals, families and entire communities will significantly benefit if Ontario’s Community Health Centres play a strengthened role in the province’s primary care planning.”
CHCs’ comprehensive services and their focus addressing the social determinants of health are two
potential reasons for CHCs’ strong results in the study. Along with the province’s 10 Aboriginal Health
Access Centres, they combine primary care with a wide range of counseling, health promotion and community
development services. In addition to physicians and nurses, CHCs’ interprofessional teams include dietitians,
therapists, social workers, health promoters, chiropodists and many other types of health providers. In
contrast to other primary care models, all members of the team, including physicians, are on salary.
- A total of 73 CHCs serve approximately 357,000 people in 110 communities throughout Ontario. Some CHCs are new and not yet fully operational. When they are, a total of 440,000 people will be able to access the benefit of CHC programs and services.
- CHCs are proactive in directing services to those whose health is most at risk and work to lessen avoidable visits to hospital emergency departments. According to the most recent figures supplied by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in 2005 the average visit to an emergency department in Ontario cost $148. The cost today is likely closer to $180.
- Other studies have confirmed CHC effectiveness. According to recent research conducted by the Élisabeth
Bruyère Institute, compared to other models CHCs deliver superior health promotion services and chronic
disease prevention and management. They also do a better job orienting services to community needs.
Governed by community members, CHCs give people a voice and a choice about the health services they receive. CHCs are also key connectors: interprofessional health teams partner with other health and social service agencies.
- CHCs are key contributors to the sustainability of our healthcare system. By creating community-based hubs where a wide range of services are integrated under one roof, they provide excellent value for money. The average capital cost to build one CHC as a hub with several services under one roof is $6M. To build over 100 hubs across the province would cost much less than cost of construction for one hospital.
- CHC Model of Care
- Illustrations of report findings (please credit use of illustrations to LeaderLine Studios/AOHC) PNG PDF
Mary MacNutt email@example.com 647-992-2642