A program that connects Niagara Health physicians with community primary care providers diverted an average of 90 per cent of calls each month away from emergency departments (ED) in its first year.
Since its launch in May 2022, SCOPE Niagara – Seamless Care Optimizing the Patient Experience – has registered more than 135 family physicians and nurse practitioners.
“The program provides an easy, quick connection between community primary care providers and the hospital,” says Sarah Furnival, SCOPE Nurse Navigator and recipient of this year’s Nursing Excellence Award – Excellence in a Non-Traditional Nursing Role. “By creating pathways, we are able to help identify and improve gaps in care all while reducing unnecessary visits to the ED.”
SCOPE Niagara connects family physicians and nurse practitioners to a dedicated team of specialists from Niagara Health and from Home and Community Care. The primary care providers connect with SCOPE Niagara’s nurse navigator, who directs them to the most appropriate service, providing support for complex and urgent patients in real-time.
The program originated in 2012 to support family physicians in Toronto. The program has since grown and has been effective in streamlining care and averting both ED visits and hospitalizations.
“We are fortunate to be a part of this extension to create a local solution for seamless patient care in Niagara,” says Dr. Darija Vujosevic, Clinical Lead, Niagara Ontario Health Team – Équipe Santé Ontario Niagara and SCOPE Niagara Steering Committee Member. “As SCOPE Niagara continues to grow, it will attract more family physicians and primary care providers to the program.”
“I was very impressed with the service that SCOPE offered for my family doctor in coordinating my care with the General Internal Medicine Rapid Assessment Clinic and diagnostic imaging,” says Niagara resident Lukas Gotfryd, who is grateful for the timely care the program provided. “I was not required to have long wait times in the ED for appointments, scans and blood work. All of my appointments have scheduled times, which helps with time management, work and family.”
As of May 2023, there were nearly 500 calls to SCOPE Niagara, which varied in nature, such as requests for support with general internal medicine, diagnostic imaging and kidney care. Opportunities to expand the program are currently being explored, including orthopedic services, mental health and addictions.
“I cannot say enough about how grateful I am for this service, especially being a new doctor to this area and still finding my bearings,” says Dr. Victor Ogala from Grantham Medical Clinic in St. Catharines. “SCOPE Niagara has given me confidence with my work, knowing I have somewhere and someone to turn to when help is needed to navigate the system and get the best care for my patients.”
SCOPE Niagara is a partnership between Niagara Health, Niagara Practitioners’ Healthcare Alliance and Home and Community Care as part of the Niagara Ontario Health Team – Équipe Santé Ontario Niagara.