Improvements coming to New Brunswick primary health care services

Changes could soon be coming to the way New Brunswickers access primary care services
WATCH ABOVE: The New Brunswick government and the New Brunswick Medical Society are in talks to improve patient access to family doctors, and the potential improvements will be made by leveraging new technologies. Global’s Adrienne South reports.

Changes could soon be coming to the way New Brunswickers access primary health care services.

New Brunswick Medical Society executive director Anthony Knight says the organization is in talks with the provincial government, discussing ways to improve access for patients.  Knight says they are also looking at ways to recruit more family physicians to the province.

Knight says the organization is “looking at ways to leverage technologies so that patients can access information more rapidly.”

He says it could allow patients to schedule appointments online with their doctors and it would give doctors the ability to share certain patient information through cloud technology.  He says that could help improve patient access to doctors on evenings and weekends.

READ MORE: More doctors using electronic records: survey 

“We think these changes will make a big difference in our patients’ access to physicians and also improve the overall health of our patients in the province,” Knight said.

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Frederictonian Bonnie Kilburn says she has a doctor but tells Global News it’s hard to get an appointment.

“I find it’s very hard to get through on the telephone so my best bet is to go directly to the office during office hours and I can usually get to see the receptionist and then get in that way,” Kilburn said.

If she were to be sick over the holidays, when doctors appointments are scarce, she says she’d have to go to the Emergency Room or “take an Aspirin and go to bed.”

Kilburn says she thinks being able to book appointments online good in theory, but says there are many seniors who aren’t computer savvy.

“[Seniors] have to get a hold of their children to get them active and online for them, so it’s two for one, one for the other,” Kilburn said.

WATCH: New app lets you consult a doctor right from your home

She says her priority is being able to get into a doctor when she needs one.

Knight says they are still having discussions with government to reach a final agreement.  He says the government has been “very supportive” of most of the ideas they’ve proposed.

READ MORE: Canadian-made app helps educate medical community 

If doctors can communicate with patients electronically or by telephone about “less urgent inquiries,” Knight says “less acute visits can be reduced,” giving doctors more time to deal with more complex cases in person, such as seniors with multiple co-morbidities or families with multiple medical concerns.

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“All those sorts of scenarios can be more easily facilitated in the clinic when the less complex cases can be dealt with electronically within a timely fashion,” Knight said.

He says improvements to access for primary care were first announced in the 2016-2017 provincial budget.

“We’ve been working since February to develop these concepts further and do something that can be brought forward to some sort of final agreement,” Knight said. “We’re hopeful that in the New Year we’ll have something positive to announce.”