Residents of North Simcoe Muskoka Gain Faster Access to Treatment for Low Back Pain

Shelley Doble, an employee of the Couchiching Family Health Team and Practice Lead for the North Simcoe Muskoka Rapid Access Assessment Clinic for Low Back.

October 4, 2019 – Now people in the North Simcoe Muskoka region with low back pain can have new hope that their condition will be assessed for treatment – and promptly.

The name says it all – ‘North Simcoe Muskoka Low Back Pain Rapid Access Clinic.’

Four of what will be six regional clinics opened in recent months for this purpose (in Orillia, South Georgian Bay and two Barrie locations). The other clinics in Midland and Muskoka locations should open early in November. Patients with low back pain are assessed in a clinic setting, reducing unnecessary medical procedures and repeat visits to their primary care provider.

Patients have responded very positively to this recent addition to the local health system says Shelley Doble, an employee of the Couchiching Family Health Team and Practice Lead for the North Simcoe Muskoka Rapid Access Assessment Clinic for Low Back. A physiotherapist by training who has had additional fellowship training for her new role, Doble will work with a team of six Advanced Practice Providers (APPs) located in communities across North Simcoe Muskoka.

Patients who meet the referral criteria are referred to the clinic by their primary care provider (ie. a family physician, nurse practitioner) or sports medicine physician who has enrolled and completed an orientation to participate in the program. Referrals are centrally coordinated through Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie. Patients are matched to a clinic closest to their home, or to an alternate location of their preference across Ontario. “It’s a province-wide program with client choice above all,” says Doble. The initial appointment is scheduled to occur within four weeks.

“Our program in North Simcoe Muskoka is very unique as it’s the only one in Ontario where the Practice Lead (Shelley’s position) works out of somewhere other than a hospital,” says Doble, who is located at the Couchiching Family Health Team in Orillia.

The North Simcoe Muskoka program Practice Lead collaborates with its surgeon sponsor and provincial lead for the Low Back Rapid Access Clinic, Dr. Raja Rampersaud, an Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon who works out of the University Health Network (Toronto Western Hospital site).  The information sharing with the Practice Lead and surgeon sponsor is therefore technology-based through phone consultation on urgent issues, regular weekly telemedicine case conferences, and sharing diagnostic imaging that is posted on Connecting Ontario. These electronic platforms are structured to ensure patient privacy. 

Doble says patients report that that the clinic has given them new hope regarding their low back pain condition. Some have tried rehabilitation, or have undergone testing, or have been on a long wait list to see a surgeon, and are grateful to attend the new program for faster access to the most appropriate treatment.

Patients can return up to four times for additional follow up assessment and education, and can access the program up to a year from the time of their last consultation without needing a new referral. If need is determined, a consultation with a spine surgeon will be made for them.

The program’s most recent survey results show 83 per cent of patients strongly agreed that the time between making the appointment and being seen was acceptable. A total of 93 per cent had confidence and trust in the practitioner examining them, and 97 per cent said they felt they were treated with dignity and respect during their appointment.

“I’m just thrilled at how well the program has been developing in enhancing patient care and collaboration with primary care providers, and in providing the right care at the right time to patients,” says Doble.

There has been steady growth in the number of patients (100 patients since mid-April), and in the number of primary care providers registering to be a part of the program.

Dr. Bernardine (Bernie) Murphy, a family physician in Orillia and the program’s physician lead, offers medical expertise for program development and contributes to patient and primary care provider resource materials. Dr. Murphy has an intimate knowledge of local resources including hospital and community-based providers and specialists in the region.  

“This is an exciting program for our community, not only to support the patients but also their primary care providers,” says Dr. Murphy.

For more information about the Low Back Pain Rapid Access Clinic, please call 705-329-3649, ext. 412.

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For more information contact:

Kathleen Bain

Director of Communications 

705-721-8010 ext. 3205