What good are Ontario’s many health services if patients get lost in a maze of telephone numbers and waiting lists trying to access them? That was the dilemma the Toronto health region began tackling ten years ago, when it started introducing centralized intake services to act as a single point of entry for patients or doctors navigating Ontario’s complex healthcare system. A patient could call one of several centralized access lines to find a service that meets their needs, such as programs for senior’s supports, mental health and addictions, or diabetes services. Or, their family doctor can use it to refer them to that service.
Now a new study is exploring how well it works.
The study, published in Healthcare Policy, looked at how often family doctors are using central intake services and also whether family doctors were more likely to be aware of the program if they worked in an inter-professional team setting like a Family Health Team or Community Health Centre.
The study, which surveyed nearly 250 primary care physicians in Toronto, found that most family doctors are not aware of the centralized intake services available in the city. This creates a barrier between patients and the help they need. We spoke with Dr. Tara Kiran, family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital Academic Family Health Team and lead author of the study, about how the findings could improve the system.