Ontario Health Teams bring together a variety of care providers

By Staff

Providing a full continuum of care within a geographic region is the key to acceptance for many prospective members of Ontario Health Teams (OHT), says Toronto health lawyer Michael Gleeson.

Gleeson, a partner with DDO Health Law, tells that the provincial government sees OHTs as the future of healthcare in Ontario.

“They’re encouraging everyone to become part of a team,” he says.

According to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, OHTs are intended to bring together a variety of health-care providers — including hospitals, doctors, community care providers and others — as individual components of a co-ordinated team.

The reorganization should realign the health system around the needs of patients, families and caregivers, according to the ministry, which hopes to smooth the path to care and transitions between providers.

The first phase of the restructure got underway earlier this year when interested providers were asked to complete a self-assessment form.

In July, the ministry began sending out its own assessment of parties’ readiness, classifying prospective team members in one of three groups:

  • Proceed to full application
  • In development
  • In discovery

Gleeson says those health-care providers categorized as “in discovery” have the most work to do before the government starts selecting successful OHT applicants later this year.

“They’ve demonstrated support for the concept and a willingness to participate, but they need to work on a few more things to fit what the government is trying to achieve,” he says.

After reviewing letters from the ministry, Gleeson says some “in discovery” providers were encouraged to consider expanding their partnerships and work with other local providers to boost their case for OHT membership.

“The province is hoping to create one-stop shops for any care a person could need, not just a single provider who specializes in two or three services,” he says. “We’ve also seen some clients whose applications were too broad in terms of geography. Unless you’re a specialist in a very select type of service, providers with ongoing relationships in very disparate communities may not be what they’re looking for.”

In either case, Gleeson suggests applicants think local when refining their case for OHT membership.

“Think about other providers in your geographic area who you could team up with in order to provide the full continuum of care that the ministry is looking for,” he says.

A good starting point could be to canvass other nearby OHT applicants assessed as at the higher “in development” stage of readiness, according to Gleeson.

“You can find out from the government who is on those higher rungs, to see if some of the skills and services you provide can assist them in moving up further,” he says.

Following his review of ministry letters, Gleeson says other “in discovery” applicants fell short in terms of implementation plans and risk mitigation strategies, both of which were canvassed as part of the self-assessment process.

“If you weren’t able to offer concrete proposals for identified risks, then the government might be less willing to spend the necessary resources and time on your proposal,” Gleeson says. “For all of these issues, prospective OHT members can seek help from the ministry, consultants or legal teams who may be able to provide them with a way forward,” he says.

Gleeson says the government’s OHT vision has a heavy emphasis on digital capabilities and suggests applications that lacked focus in this area may have been marked down in terms of readiness.

“They want to ensure ease of access to records for patients themselves, as well as between OHT members,” he says. “That mechanism needs to be easy to use, but also done in a way that meets all the privacy requirements applicable to health-care service providers in Ontario.”

This is part one of Gleeson’s series on Ontario Health Teams. Stay tuned for part two, where he will explain how applicants classified as “in development” can step up to proceed to a full application.

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