At a recent standing-room only Medical Staff Association meeting at Vancouver General Hospital, more than 120 physicians turned out to learn about the Vancouver Physician Staff Association Facility Engagement (FE) plans. A request to identify priorities resulted in 36 project proposals that ultimately support better patient care. Other sites are seeing similarly enthusiastic responses from physicians. Medical staff working at 42 hospitals are being formally asked about their priorities, and have a formal structure in place where they can express their views and more importantly - be heard.
This activity is the result of the new Facility Engagement Initiative, which is part of the Physician Master Agreement with oversight from the SSC. The goal of the program is to strengthen relationships and engagement between health authorities and facility-based physicians, to improve the shared work environment and the delivery of patient care.
Facility Engagement in action can be clearly seen through recent activities. For example, at the Victoria General Hospital South Island Physician Society, a group of gastroenterologists identified a priority to schedule endoscopic (ERCP) procedures in a more efficient and effective manner.
Previously, this type of project could face significant roadblocks because it involves adjusting staffing practices, hospital room allocation, and more. However, the FE funding facilitated getting all of the physicians impacted by the previous ERCP booking model to attend initial discussion and planning meetings. During these meetings, health authority administration gained better insight into the complexity of the issues. The groups organized a series of meetings to discuss how to reorganize the ERCP scheduling.
They have now successfully implemented the desired changes in the scheduling practices for weekday procedures and are in the process of evaluating the outcomes and cost savings over the next few months.
Since the fall of 2016, interest and involvement in the Facility Engagement Initiative has grown rapidly to include physician groups from more than 60 acute care sites in all five health authorities. Forty-two of those sites have received full funding to carry out activities to enhance physician and health authority communication and relationships, solve problems, and contribute to improving patient care and the work environment.
In some cases, Facility Engagement is bringing together physicians who have been disconnected for years, and energizing medical staff associations to be more active and unified. At many sites, physicians, and hospital health authority administrators are starting to communicate and interact in new, more effective ways around local and regional issues.
As Facility Engagement gains traction across the province, other examples are illustrating how physicians are influencing decisions that affect them and their patients, and collaborating locally to make sustainable improvements. It will take time to shift communication processes and behavior to build a culture of trust and mutual respect between physicians and health authorities. But early progress is showing positive results, starting with MSAs working together with health authorities to set out strategies, apply for, and get funding; and now moving on to collaborate around local activities.