Familiar Faces Program reduces wait times while helping those seeking care  

Sometimes what brings a person to the Emergency Department (ED) isn’t an emergency at all. Sometimes it’s a person in need of a prescription refill but with no family physician to write the script, or someone scared and confused with dementia, but with no family to help. And sometimes, those patients come back to the emergency department time and time again with non-emergency medical concerns. That’s why Niagara Health has created the Familiar Faces program. It is for patients who frequently visit the ED, most commonly with medical concerns better suited to other forms of healthcare.

Familiar Faces is a patient-focused program designed to reduce ED wait times by focusing on returning patients. Staff use technology to track the top 200 patients most frequently visiting EDs. Identifying those patients allows NH staff and physicians to search for a current, or create a new, care plan for the patient.

The program is so pioneering that it has received recognition from the national Health Standards Organization and Accreditation Canada. It has been named a Leading Practice for its innovative and people-focused practices leading to a positive change related to safe, reliable, accessible and integrated care.

NH emergency departments have seen more than 185,000 patient visits in the past year. In 2022, 3,700 of those patients visited an ED more than five times, representing approximately 25,000 patient visits.

The goal of Familiar Faces since it began last fall, is to enhance a person’s overall healthcare experience by collaborating with existing community service partners to assist with complex care needs. That includes community care resources such as primary care partners, community care clinics, and chronic disease management programs. Niagara Health says there is significant evidence that this case-management approach, involving Social Workers within the ED, is most effective with this patient population.