DR. Jaco Kruger’s first experience with health teams came when he moved to Alberta. Having worked in 3 countries without that in-clinic support, Dr. Kruger says health teams vastly improve patient care. “It is such an asset to how we can practice,” he says. “It really channels your treatment approach into an evidence-based practice and offers more comprehensive care.”

1. Health Teams = better health care

Calgary Foothills Primary Care Network has 54 health team members, including clinical pharmacists, registered dietitians, health management nurses, behavioural health consultants (BHCs) and certified respiratory educators. They operate in 96.3 per cent of member clinics.

Dr. Kruger says having a BHC in the office helps limit the number of patients who are prescribed medications to cope with mental health problems. “Issues such as anxiety and panic disorder really respond well to a few sessions of cognitive therapy with a BHC,” Dr. Kruger says. “Most people don’t need medication for these problems, but if you don’t have a mental health professional to refer patients to, there may be no other choice.”

2. real-time care

Health teams also promote real-time care, he says. A patient with diabetes who needs an insulin start can often be seen by a clinical pharmacist or health management nurse on the same day. “Being able to do these things in almost real time is amazing,” Dr. Kruger says. “It makes my life easier and it makes the patient’s life easier.”

Patients also value talking to a clinical pharmacist about medications, including the options available and potential adverse reactions. “Most patients feel they do learn a lot and it helps them make better decisions,” Dr. Kruger says. “They see it as an extension of our care, like we are a one-stop shop.”

Learn more about health teams.