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Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, Summer 2014

Manitobans seeking medical care have a new online registry to connect them with primary-care providers who are taking new patients.

The Family Doctor Finder website, unveiled last spring, joins a phone line already used by people seeking a primary-care provider.

The online option provides an easy way for people who don't have a regular primary-care provider to find one, says Anita Jenin, Manager of Regional Primary Care Renewal and Primary Care Connector with the Winnipeg Health Region. It's just one more way the Region is working to enhance access to primary care, she says.

So far, the online service has been a huge hit with the public. "We receive around 300 requests a week from people looking for a family physician/primary-care provider," says Jenin, adding that on average, 100 primary-care providers are working with the Region at any one time to take on new patients in Winnipeg.

The online registry is managed by the provincial Department of Health, Healthy Living and Seniors. When a person calls or goes online to register, staff use a secure database to record basic demographic and contact information, as well as the person's first and second preference for provider type - such as a family doctor or a nurse practitioner - and their preferred geographic location.

In Winnipeg, the information is sent to Winnipeg Health Region staff members, known as primary-care connectors. They assess the registrant's particular needs, then contact the person to recommend a primary-care provider.

In addition to working with patients, the primary-care connectors also keep in touch with the primary-care providers to ensure their ongoing involvement and support.

The Family Doctor Finder website helps  connect patients to the right care at the right time, says Ingrid Botting, Director of Health Services Integration with the Winnipeg Health Region's Family Medicine/Primary Care program.

For example, newborns need to have a primary-care provider within two weeks of birth. The primary-care connectors ensure that a match is made as close to discharge as possible.

"People with complex health needs are also matched with health-care teams that can meet their needs, such as the ones at ACCESS centres," says Botting. "Or we might find that a person doesn't have easy access to transportation. We try to find a nearby physician or nurse practitioner to where they live or work."

Connecting people to a primary-care provider helps ensure they receive ongoing care and support from someone who knows their medical history and needs. This helps improve their overall health and wellness, and helps prevent and manage health conditions.

The Winnipeg Health Region's primary-care connectors have connected over 10,000 people since September of last year, says Jenin.

The length of time for a connection with a primary- care provider does vary, depending on the availability of providers in a requested area, but generally the connection is made quickly, says Jenin.

It's not only members of the public who are requesting primary care. Hospitals also call to connect patients with primary-care providers before they discharge their patients, says Jenin.

"We're working with all the hospitals on this," she says. "The more care people have in the community, the less they have to rely on hospital emergency departments for care. Their primary-care provider or primary-care team takes care of their health needs."

 Susie Strachan is a communications advisor with the Winnipeg Health Region.

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