Familiar Faces Program reducing wait times at Niagara Health

Photo Credit: Niagara Health


As local health departments across Canada continue to grapple with demand beyond their capacity, the need to develop innovative solutions for the delivery of care is immense. The emergency room is no exception. 

Niagara Health recently announced the new Familiar Faces Program, which will seek to address emergency room wait times and ensure that everyone receives the medical attention they require. “Sometimes what brings a person to the Emergency Department (ED) isn’t an emergency at all,” Diane Moore, Communications Specialist for Niagara Health, shared in a recent news release. “Sometimes it’s a person in need of a prescription refill but with no family physician to write the script, or someone scared and confused with dementia, but with no family to help,” she further explained. “And sometimes, those patients come back to the emergency department time and time again with non-emergency medical concerns.” 

 “There are people frequently returning to our emergency departments who are not in an emergency situation,” shared Debbie Schaubel, Senior Project Manager, ePMO, Strategy & Communications. “Do they need care? Absolutely, that’s undeniable,” she was adamant. “But some of these repeat patients have complex care requirements that the emergency department is simply not equipped to deal with.” 

The Familiar Faces program will seek to apply technology in order to keep track of the two-hundred most frequent patients that are visiting the ED. By doing so, it will become possible for doctors and nurses at Niagara health to personalize care plans for these patients, and therefore decrease overall wait-times. 

 “We want to give the right care, to the right person, at the right time, and provide excellence in care,” said Dr. Shira Brown, Chair of the Familiar Faces Program and Lead Physician for the South Niagara Hospital venture. 

 “The project team has been working on this initiative since 2021 and has done a fantastic job of designing and supporting the program,” said Schaubel. 

The long-term objective of Familiar Faces will be to facilitate effective collaboration between community service partners, in order to ensure that all health-care needs of patients are being addressed. We want to find a way to ensure (the) patients are getting continuity of care and the type of community-based care that would serve them better, while also alleviating some of the pressures from the emergency department,” Dr. Brown explained. 

Looking ahead, there is great optimism that the labour that has been put into organizing this program, as well as implementing it, will reap enormous rewards for everyone.

“I hope that everyone who has invested their time and energy in this patient-centered program can enjoy the wonderful external validation of the hard work we are doing every day,” Schaubel remarked in closing. 

Those interested in exploring the familiar faces program can do so by visiting the Niagara Health website.

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