Is Time Right for More Polyclinics in North America?

February 17, 2010 by  

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One of the reasons I was very excited about my volunteer assignment in the Polyclinic in the Athletes Village was the opportunity to really experience inter-professional practice in action.

It has been many years since I practiced clinical nursing and worked side by side with other health professionals in the field. Here was the chance to experience this in 2010, and in a setting where many health professionals are actively working together collaboratively to meet individual patient needs.

Like other health professionals in the field today, I use terms like inter-professional practice, collaboration and team work regularly and often discuss the actualities of important current concepts like patient-focused care. This seemed like an awesome opportunity to experience the realities of what many might call “lingo”.

When my assignment first came to me in an e-mail last August I wasn’t even sure what a polyclinic was – I had to look it up on Wikipedia. A polyclinic, it said, is a place where a wide range of health care services, including diagnostics, can be obtained without the need for an overnight stay. Polyclinics are sometimes co-located within a hospital or can be located completely separated from the hospital. A typical Polyclinic houses general medical practitioners such as doctors and nurses who provide ambulatory care along with some acute care services, but lacks the major surgical and pre- and post operative care facilities commonly associated with hospitals.

Apparently polyclinics are popular in countries such as Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland and the former Soviet republics such as Russia and Ukraine and in many countries across Asia and Africa. It is said that recent Russian governments have attempted to replace the polyclinic model, which was introduced during soviet times, with a more western model but this has failed.

The concept of the polyclinic is a good fit with the current North American movement towards stronger inter-professional practice involving a wide variety of specialized practitioners and more focus on health and wellness than on illness care. In the last few years hospital units have become more like intensive care units with sicker and sicker patients requiring 24/7 care taking up available space. Hospitals are busier than ever, budgets are tight and the need for other models of care is high. The idea of community polyclinics seems valid.

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