Today FPSC launched a pilot program in partnership with HealthLink BC to provide after hours care for attached patients of family physicians and nurse practitioners in the Langley, South Island, South Okanagan Similkameen, Thompson Region, and Victoria divisions of family practice.
FPSC developed the program together with HealthLink BC and the five divisions of family practice to reduce the challenges family physicians face in providing patients with care outside regular office hours. After hours care was one of the top burdens family doctors identified during Doctors of BC’s primary care engagement in summer 2022. The new program meets the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC’s Practice Standard for Care Coverage Outside Regular Office Hours.
Family physicians in the pilot regions can also sign up to work the after hours service and receive compensation for their time, paid hourly through a physician group contract with the B.C. Ministry of Health.
To reach the after hours service, patients in the pilot regions whose family doctor or nurse practitioner have signed up will follow their clinic’s existing process for accessing care after hours. They will then be connected to the After Hours Care program. The service runs weekdays from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 24 hours on weekends and statutory holidays.
The pilot will run for six months and will be evaluated along elements of the quintuple aim. Learnings from a successful pilot will guide expansion across the province and how to support unattached patients in accessing care after hours.
The service is meant to extend, not replace, a patient’s family doctor or nurse practitioner. Its focus is on handling urgent issues that can’t wait until the medical office reopens. The service also handles calls about critical labs and other results. During the pilot, crisis and counselling care is out of scope, as well as most prescription refills and notes (unless the physician deems it necessary—such as an antibiotic prescription). The service accepts calls from individual patients in the community and not those from facilities such as in long-term or in-patient care.
What happens when patients call the after hours service:
- A patient navigator will answer, offering non-medical help and directing patients with emergencies to the ER or to call/connecting them with 911. Patients with administrative or non-urgent concerns will be asked to contact the clinic when it reopens.
- Registered nurses will triage patients with medical issues and guide the patient as appropriate.
- If required, a family physician will call back the patient to manage their issue.
- Staff from the service will send an encounter note to the patient’s family doctor or nurse practitioner.
- If semi-urgent follow-up is needed, then an after hours physician will do a phone call hand-over the next morning to the patient’s family doctor or nurse practitioner.
For more information, visit https://fpscbc.ca/after-hours-care.