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The patient will see you now

Toronto, May 13, 2014

By Patricia Favre

Kari Fulton tends to a patient
Nurse practitioner Kari Fulton tends to a patient in her home. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Medical house calls are thought to have gone the way of rotary phones. But at a time when home phones are being replaced by smartphones, the St. Michael’s Family Health Team is delivering the time-tested service to patients who need it most.

Nurse practitioners Lorna McDougall and Kari Fulton are part of an interprofessional team that visits frail, home-bound seniors in downtown Toronto.

“Our patients have complex health care issues, but for many of them isolation is what looms large in their day-to-day lives,” said McDougall. “Our goal is to provide them with access to acute and chronic care in the home. Our visits also give patients a sense of socialization and remind them that they have access to support.”

Since the program’s inception about a year and a half ago, 400 nurse practitioner home visits were completed with the 29 patients who are enrolled in the program.

In addition to the two nurse practitioners, the team also consists of two family physicians, a geriatrician, a palliative care physician, a pharmacist and a social worker. Most team members participate in the program in addition to their work with one of the St. Michael’s FHT sites.

A home visit could include anything from a routine checkup to immunizations and safety and frailty assessments. McDougall explained that while some visits are scheduled, a lot of her work consists of drop-ins.

Patients can also call McDougall and Fulton in an emergency.

“Instead of going to the Emergency Department when the situation escalates, patients can call us if they’re worried about a health issue such as blood sugar levels,” said Fulton. “We can often find a solution over the phone and avoid a trip to the ED.”

The St. Michael’s FHT home visit program is part of a larger study called the Bridges Integrated Home-Based Primary Care project. The project is partnered with a number of family health teams across the city.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.