Local family health teams: Vitalité’s model proves its worth

Vitalité Health Network, Friday, March 22, 2024Vitalité Health Network, which has made access to primary health care one of its two major strategic priorities, has developed a care model involving the formation of local family health teams that is being increasingly well-received and is already proving its worth.

“With the population increasing and aging, it is crucial and urgent to strengthen the entry point to the health system and relieve the pressure on our hospitals and health workers.

A team approach is the solution. We believe that we have developed a winning formula that will improve access to care for our patients and support family medicine in New Brunswick.

I am determined to continue the dialogue with all our partners to rally them around this winning solution for New Brunswickers.”
Dr. France Desrosiers, President and CEO

This initiative is in response to the pressing needs expressed by large numbers of health professionals and patients, including the need for:

  • Greater cooperation and collaboration between care providers;
  • Improved service integration and increased patient follow-up all along the care path;
  • Administrative support and reduced workload for medical resources.

The process is underway

This model, introduced in 2023, is being rolled out quickly and is already treating more patients and achieving savings:

  • Six local family health teams, involving 33 physicians and 8 nurse practitioners, are now in operation and 22 groups are currently under development;
  • A new referral centre is operational for the Edmundston region.  It is being supported by a new urgent care centre for minor and urgent cases;
  • The Network now has a medical director dedicated to this project and has created new manager positions.

The new Edmundston referral center team

The new Edmundston referral center team

The initial results of this pilot project are promising for the future of primary health care.

In the Edmundston region, the newly created team has reduced the average waiting time by 18.9 days. In the Dieppe region, the teams formed over the past few months have added 3,660 patients to their clientele.

In total, 4,116 additional patients are now being served by the 41 professionals having adopted the collaborative model.

The Network’s vision for primary health care is attracting great interest from the medical community and our community partners. Our collaboration meetings, which began 12 months ago in Vitalité’s regions, are continuing apace.

Initial results

  • Over 4,116 patients added since July 2023
  • Average waiting time for patients in the model: 7 days, down from 12.62.
  • 127 doctors committed to developing and implementing the model (59%)

"Traditional family medicine is suffering, and this new model helps us. I'm accessible much more quickly and able to do better follow-ups. I've been able to take on new patients, something I haven't been able to do for ten years."
Dr. Renelle Gautreau, Family Physician (Dieppe)

Next steps

  • Edmundston
    • Opening of a women’s health centre – March 2024
    • Assessment service for children aged 0 to 4 without a health care provider – planning underway
  • Dieppe
    • Referral centre begins operations – June 2024

A connected model based on co-development and teamwork

The model is based on every patient being cared for by a team made up of various professionals rather than a single doctor.

Each team is connected to their own referral group responsible for quickly guiding patients to the right service provider. Administrative support is provided so that the professionals can focus on delivering care.

Some tasks performed by doctors (Pap tests, newborn follow-ups, or ear washing) can be delegated to other health professionals based on a patient’s needs.

Note that the form the model takes can vary from one region to another because how each group operates is tailored to the specific needs and realities of their community.

This approach facilitates access in five days and better follow-up of chronic illnesses through electronic record sharing between the team members. Once access has been optimized, the objective is to expand coverage to a greater number of orphan patients.

Once the primary care provider groups have been created, the second phase will consist of adding professional services (psychology, social work, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, audiology, nutrition) to this developing network. This step has already begun in Edmundston and Dieppe, where the process of including social workers on the teams has begun.

Deployment progress – Phase 1

Community Teams under development Active teams Professionals involved
Beauséjour Zone
Dieppe 6 3 35 doctors
Memramcook 1 0 3 doctors
Moncton 2 1
  • 3 doctors
  • 7 nurse practionners
1 1 4 doctors
Shediac 1 0
  • 15 doctors
  • 1 nurse practionner
Nord-Ouest Zone
Grand Falls 1 0
  • 8 doctors
  • 3 nurse practionners
2 1
  • 17 doctors
  • 1 nurse practionner
Restigouche Zone
Campbellton 1 0 10 doctors
Acadie-Bathurst Zone
Caraquet 1 0 5 doctors
Île-de-Lamèque 1 0
  • 5 doctors
  • 2.6 nurse practionners
Bathurst 3 0 14 doctors
Tracadie 1 0 4 doctors
Shippagan 1 0 4 doctors
  22 under development 6 active teams
  • 125 doctors
  • 14.6 nurse practionners