Care Transformation pilot project boosts acute care access

August 31, 2011

Emergency department wait times, hospital length of stay reduced at U of A Hospital

EDMONTON — Patients are being admitted to inpatient beds from the emergency department sooner, and spending less time in hospital overall, as a result of a patient-flow pilot project on a University of Alberta Hospital unit that will now be expanded to other city hospitals.

The Care Transformation project, launched last October at the Alberta Health Services (AHS) facility, brought general internal medicine patients and multi-disciplinary health care teams closer together to improve efficiency and to promote better communication and collaboration between health care providers.

The project’s first phase is complete and results from the unit are promising:

The Care Transformation project will now be expanded to all medicine programs at the U of A Hospital and the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

The Edmonton programs will be later reviewed to determine if the concept could be adapted for other AHS health facilities across the province.

“Care Transformation is a further example of our province’s commitment to improve access and patient flow through hospitals, and ensuring patients and families have the supports they need in their community,” says Gene Zwozdesky, Minister of Health and Wellness.

The project is one of many coordinated, system-wide initiatives occurring across the province that are designed to improve access to acute-care services and reduce wait times in emergency departments – goals outlined in the 5-Year Health Action Plan, jointly developed by the Government of Alberta and AHS, and supported by the province’s stable 5-year funding.

AHS has set wait times targets to be met by next March: 75 per cent of non-admitted emergency department patients discharged within four hours, and 60 per cent of admitted emergency department patients admitted to an inpatient bed within eight hours.

The seven adult emergency departments in Edmonton and Calgary are falling short of these targets, so projects continue throughout the health system to decrease emergency department length of stay for more patients. (Weekly length-of-stay updates from all Edmonton and Calgary emergency departments are available on the AHS website,

Care Transformation is one such project.

Prior to the pilot, general internal medicine patients were often spread throughout the hospital, which hindered a health care provider’s ability to quickly visit multiple patients and to confer with other care providers. The Care Transformation project gathers these patients on four, 18-bed wards in the General Internal Medicine unit. Each ward has an interprofessional care team, including (but not limited to) physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists.

Bringing patients and care teams closer together has resulted in better communication, closer monitoring, and more precise care tailored to each individual patient, says Dr. Ann Colbourne, Clinical Lead for the Care Transformation Project and Director, General Internal Medicine, University of Alberta Hospital.

“Teamwork is, without doubt, the best prescription within the Care Transformation environment,” says Dr. Colbourne. “This project takes the principles of high-quality teamwork in health care and puts this into action where it matters the most – at the interface of care.”

As part of the project, all individuals admitted to the General Internal Medicine unit receive an integrated plan of care that outlines their potential treatment strategy and affirms their views and values are important and will be included in their plan of care.

“It’s about listening to our patients and collaborating with colleagues to determine the best care for each person we serve,” says Dr. Colbourne. “This supportive environment ensures patients and families have the personalized supports they need during and after their hospital visit.”

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than 3.7 million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

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