LHIN engagement strategy to be multi-faceted, transparent

Establishing a comprehensive community engagement strategy is one of the necessary challenges LHIN leadership teams will address as the networks are phased in to replace Ontario’s currently provider-centric health care model.

To do this, LHIN leadership teams have hired directors of integration, planning and community engagement, who will help build a more sustainable, transparent and thoroughly networked health care system.

“It’s important for us to communicate not just to clients and providers but to the larger community,” says Kelly Gillis, recently appointed senior director, planning, integration, and community engagement in the Southwest LHIN.

“But this is a process – not a quick fix – and it will be a complex one.”

As the leadership teams wait patiently for legislation to give them the legal authority to implement long term funding and accountability strategies, Gillis is developing what she calls a “toolkit” of stakeholder engagement methods. This, she adds, will help change the focus of the health care system back to the patient.

A toolkit – involving focus groups, forums, workshops, and surveys, as well as central web site – will involve patients, providers and the wider public within an evolving, fluid and more equitable system.

“Transformation is always an evolving process,” she says. “We have to continually pay attention to what approaches we are using.”

Using a wide array of stakeholder engagement techniques is necessary in order to leverage what is out there, she says.

Ongoing meetings between members of different LHINs, and partnerships amongst neighboring LHINs are an important component of integration. Gillis has met with the 27 other senior directors (two have been hired in each LHIN) and points to bi-monthly CEO meetings as required in assuring congruency in method and capacity building through knowledge sharing.

“We don’t want to be going in fourteen directions, but we also have to assure that there is a local flavour in each respective LHIN,” says Gillis, who recently worked in two teaching hospitals as director of medical affairs.

Gillis, who is currently working on a community engagement draft to be presented in early March, says that building new relationships has occupied the team in these early phases, a process well-facilitated by meetings with provider organizations.

“The response has been very positive – a lot of people are keen for this change,” she says.