Supporting collaborative approaches to primary care

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Our work at the MSSU is collaborative by nature. We engage with patients, the public, researchers, health-decision makers and provincial governments to identify and support patient-oriented research that is aligned with provincial priorities. An example of this is the Collaborative Family Practice Teams Priority Project.

Primary health care access was identified as a priority topic for discussion at the MSSU Bridge Event in June 2018 by Nova Scotia Health and the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness (DHW), both of whom are interested in additional strategies to support collaborative family practice teams across the province. These earlier discussions focused on access to primary health care and collaborative family practice teams led to the formation of a multidisciplinary research team to study barriers and enablers to collaborative care team implementation.

Collaborative Family Practice Teams (CFPTs) involve different kinds of primary health care providers—for example family physicians, nurse practitioners or pharmacists—working together to provide patient care within the same practice. In Nova Scotia, CFPTs have at least three primary health care providers working in two or more professional disciplines.

In Nova Scotia, collaborative practice teams were introduced in 2000 at four pilot sites. As of January 2020, Nova Scotia has 89 collaborative practice teams. With the growth in the number of teams, further work is needed to support these teams in their work to provide comprehensive primary health care, which includes a focus on increasing access to primary care.

The first phase of this project involved a literature review to examine the known barriers and enablers to implementing collaborative family practice teams. Building on this work, the research team was awarded a Translating Research into Care (TRIC) grant from Nova Scotia Health in July 2019. The TRIC grant will allow the research team to use the findings of the literature review to explore local perspectives of the barriers and enablers experienced during the implementation process and team functioning since implementation.

“The TRIC grant provided an opportunity to use the results of the literature review to develop a survey that will enable an understanding of the barriers and enablers faced by Nova Scotia collaborative family practice teams. This knowledge will benefit planning for how to better support teams to provide services to meet the health needs of the patients in their communities,” says Ruth Martin-Misener, Professor and Director, School of Nursing, and Assistant Dean Research, Faculty of Health, Dalhousie University.

To better understand the current state of collaborative care models in the province, the NS DHW initiated a rapid review in 2019 to better understand how these teams are functioning and how these different models are supporting access to care. This intersection in timing and topic allowed the MSSU to support the rapid review team led by Nova Scotia Health and researchers at Dalhousie University. Being familiar with the provincial context, the MSSU provided methodological guidance and support for the mixed methods study and facilitated timely access to administrative data.

“The collaborative approach between the MSSU and the provincial rapid review team has been a great success. Since the MSSU was familiar with the context of the work, they were able to provide key support while initiating the reviews,” says Tara Sampalli, Senior Scientific Director, Nova Scotia Health.

The collaborative nature of this project has led to stronger partnerships across the primary health care system. As the project has moved into its second phase, the MSSU looks forward to the continued collaboration across multiple levels of the health system, including with leaders in Primary Health Care at Nova Scotia Health.

“By partnering with MSSU and the research team in the next phase of the project to roll out the research grant, we can ensure that the learnings are contextually relevant and can be applied in our day to day work to co-lead with, and support, collaborative family practice teams across Nova Scotia,” says Erin Christian, Primary Health Care Implementation Director, Nova Scotia Health.

Learn more about the Collaborative Family Practice Teams priority project