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Texting to fill appointments, posting Emergency Department wait times, and registration apps are some of the new priorities for Nova Scotia healthcare thanks to the ideas of the province’s healthcare workers and the voting of Nova Scotians.


Readers might recall from Issue 23 of The Third that the province last fall launched the Healthcare Improvement Challenge. The challenge had two components. The first asked healthcare workers and those with jobs connected to healthcare to submit their best ideas to improve the province’s healthcare system. The second part of the challenge asked Nova Scotians to vote for up to three of their favourite ideas from those submitted from healthcare professionals.


The contest, launched in October, received more than 2,200 submissions from healthcare providers and people in jobs linked to healthcare in Nova Scotia. Their ideas were narrowed down to a shortlist of 20 that were voted on by the public to determine the top 10.


During the two weeks of public voting, the province received a of total 20,392 votes from 8,722 individuals.


“The people who know our healthcare system best told us what common-sense, low-cost and easy-to-implement improvements we could make, and Nova Scotians chose those they felt would have the biggest impact,” said Premier Tim Houston. “The votes are in and now it’s time for us to get to work to make them happen.”


According to the government, the top 10 ideas are now priorities, and the government will work with health-system partners to implement them, where feasible.


Here are the top 10 vote-getting ideas from the Healthcare Improvement Challenge, in descending order:


- A no-show or missed appointment is an appointment someone else could use to receive care. Set up a text notification system that reminds patients of their appointment date, time and location.


- Provide patients the option to receive appointment letters by email instead of posted mail. This would save money, reduce no-shows and missed appointments, and reduce waste.


- Allow for audiologists to send direct referrals to ear, nose and throat (ENT) physicians instead of making patients go to their primary care provider (family doctor or nurse practitioner) to get this referral.


- Support continuing care assistants to work to their full scope of practice (for example let them take vitals). This change would reduce the pressure on nurses who can spend that time providing better patient care.


- Install screens or monitors in all emergency departments that show publicly available wait times, public health information, and other related information about what a patient should expect in the emergency department.


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