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Family Health Teams

Q&A: Understanding Family Health Teams

Your access to primary care

What is a Family Health Team?

A Family Health Team is an approach to primary health care that brings together different health care providers to co-ordinate the highest possible quality of care for you - the patient.

Designed to improve and expand access to primary care, most Family Health Teams consist of doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, dietitians and other health care professionals who work collaboratively, each utilizing their experience and skills so that you receive the very best care, when you need it, as close to home as possible.

How many Family Health Teams are there?

There are 184 Family Health Teams serving over 3 million people in over 200 communities across Ontario.

You just mentioned different kinds of health care providers in a Family Health Team, who will I be dealing with?

Diverse populations in Ontario mean that there are different needs for different communities. As a result the composition of a Family Health Team is different from place to place. However, Family Health Teams have core health care professionals across the province, including doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses.

What will Family Health Teams mean to me?

Family Health Teams are patient centred and provide access to a number of primary health care services from a variety of team members, including your family doctor.

For example:

  • Your family doctor will continue to see you during regular office hours.
  • You will have access to other health care professionals within that Family Health Team, such as nurse practitioners, nurses, dietitians and pharmacists.
  • You will have access to a Family Health Team doctor during extended evening and weekend hours for urgent problems.
  • If you see another doctor in your Family Health Team for treatment, your own doctor will receive documentation about the nature of your problem so that he or she will always be up-to-date about your medical condition.
  • If you need assistance after-hours, you will be able to telephone the Family Health Team Telephone Health Advisory Service where a registered nurse will provide advice about your urgent health care concerns.
  • With your permission, your doctor will receive a written summary of your call the next day, so that your doctor is informed of the nature of the problem and the advice you received.
  • Family Health Teams are able to take advantage of specially funded information technology to organize your health information and share it securely with other health professionals.
  • Family Health Teams are organized to offer you timely access to high quality primary care. Research shows that this access results in you being healthier, longer.
  • Family Health Teams offer a variety of interprofessional programs in chronic disease management, disease prevention and health promotion.

Will I still get to see my doctor if he or she joins a Family Health Team?

Yes. Family Health Teams are a group approach to health care where your care will be provided through an interprofessional team. You'll have access to different health care professionals who have the right skills to meet your health needs.

What if I am sick after regular office hours?

If you think it's an emergency, you should go to the nearest hospital. However, you should be aware that there are several alternatives for you and your family after hours. Please consult the Health Care Options website for details: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/hco/

How can I join a Family Health Team?

Some Family Health Teams accept patients directly from people in the community while many require interested patients to seek enrolment through Health Care Connect. Health Care Connect helps Ontarians who are without a family health care provider (family doctor or nurse practitioner) to find one. People without a family health care provider are referred to a family doctor or a nurse practitioner who is accepting new patients in their community. More information about Health Care Connect can be found here: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/ms/healthcareconnect/public/

What is enrolment?

When you enrol with a physician, you agree to contact that physician when you need primary care medical advice or treatment. You are making promise to do that unless there is an emergency or you are travelling away from home. Your enrolment to a physician in a Family Health Team is voluntary.

Can I access programs if I’m not enrolled to a Family Health Team?

Family Health Teams may offer various programs to their enrolled patients such as Smoking Cessation, Weight Management, Healthy Aging, etc. If there is capacity to include non-enrolled patients in these programs, Family Health Teams may do so.

Do I have to go to the doctor's office to get health care advice?

Some doctor's offices have call in telephone help lines and some provide help and clinical assistance by email. Check with your doctor to see if this is available to you.

Health811 also provides free access to a registered nurse 24/7 at 811. A nurse can provide both health advice on a specific problem or general health information. They do not diagnose and do not replace your physician.

I am a health care professional who is interested in working at a Family Health Teams. How do I determine which Family Health Teams are hiring?

The ministry does not maintain a list of Family Health Teams that are recruiting staff. In some cases, Family Health Teams will post their employment opportunities with the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario (www.afhto.ca). Alternately, you may wish to contact HealthForceOntario (http://www.healthforceontario.ca/), and/or Family Health Teams directly in the area where you are interested in obtaining employment.

I am interested in opening a Family Health Team. How do I do that?

Communities across Ontario embraced the Family Health Team concept and responded with overwhelming enthusiasm to the five calls for applications between 2005 and 2010. At this time, we are not accepting applications for Family Health Teams.

For More Information

Call ServiceOntario, Infoline at:
1–866–532–3161 (Toll–free)
In Toronto, (416) 314–5518
TTY 1–800–387–5559.
In Toronto, TTY (416)327–4282
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

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