October 5, 2007
Reforming health from the ground up
Health care, education and research lead Edmonton Clinic initiative
by Michael Brown
If health care in Alberta needs change, then change might as well be from the ground up, literally. With that, the first shovels full of dirt were dug out of the site of the Edmonton Clinic during a groundbreaking ceremony.
The $909-million state-of-the-art combination health care centre, teaching and research facility will occupy ground on either side of 114 Street across from the University of Alberta Hospital and is expected to open in 2011.
“Today we mark a milestone in our efforts to transform health-care teaching, research and patient care, a milestone in our work as partners to rise to the challenges of the twenty-first century, a milestone in an incredible initiative that has come to be known as Edmonton Clinic,” said U of A President Indira Samarasekera, singing the praises of the Clinic. The Edmonton Clinic “is unrivalled in its ability to serve as a catalyst of this transformation.”
The Edmonton Clinic is designed to change delivery of outpatient care and health sciences education and research. The Edmonton Clinic will join health sciences students with teachers, clinicians and researchers in an environment that better prepares them to function as a team.
More than 2,000 health sciences professionals will operate out of the facility, which is expected to receive more than one million patients annually. When open, the Edmonton Clinic will also free up 140 beds at the U of A Hospital and Stollery Children’s Hospital, and will house upwards of 800 health sciences students each year.
“This clinic will mean a streamlined approach to diagnosis and treatment, in particular for complex illnesses and injuries,” said Sheila Weatherill, Capital Health’s president and CEO. “Think of it as a one-stop approach, or the Mayo Clinic approach, for it, we believe, is the best in the world at thinking about what will make sense for the patient and his or her family.”
Weatherill said this innovative approach to health will reduce the need for repeat health-care visits, as all of a patient’s needs will be present in one facility. “Not having to come back for repeat visits makes good sense for patients – it also makes good sense for our clinicians.”
Some of the innovations in health-care delivery that the Edmonton Clinic promises to deliver include centralized scheduling for both diagnostic tests and specialist appointments that are bookable online, the safest design for controlling infections, clinic spaces that allow for future growth and change, and maximum use of Telehealth to connect clinic specialists to patients outside of Edmonton. The Edmonton Clinic will also be a paperless digital building set up to avoid costly duplications that weigh on the health-care system, while supporting fast and accurate decision-making with an empowered patient at the centre of the process.
“The provincial government’s goal is that health care in Alberta be people-centred, and the new Edmonton Clinic will really focus that goal,” said Dave Hancock, minister of health and wellness, adding that the learning potential at the clinic can only help to improve patient care in this province. Health sciences students, he observed, will “learn in an active patient-care setting that will prepare them to move seamlessly into their chosen profession.”
“Developing a new model of patient care and developing a new model of teaching isn’t an easy thing to do,” said Doug Horner, minister for advanced education and technology. “There is a lot of buy-in that has to happen.”
“This is the new interdisciplinary method of teaching: it’s the new hands-on, the new type of research you can do while the teaching is being done, that is going to create exceptional students and exceptional trainees in our system.”
This institutional and portfolio co-operation is the kind of progress Premier Ed Stelmach said will not only serve Edmonton and Alberta but will stand as “the model by which other provinces can follow.”
“There is no doubt that one of the greatest pressures on governments in this country will be on health and health delivery,” Stelmach said. “This is all part of our plan to meet Alberta’s growing population and improve Alberta’s quality of life.”