Standards for Post-Concussion Care
New standards to guide post-concussion care in Ontario
Right Care, Right Time, Right Provider
The Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (ONF) has moved to fill a gap and support people in Ontario requiring post-concussion care with the release of new “Standards for Post-Concussion Care”. The document offers 15 criteria to guide interdisciplinary clinics and healthcare providers in processes used to provide care. These criteria will also help patients ask the best questions around how their care is delivered.
As the short and long-term health effects of concussions have become better understood, there has been a proliferation of Ontario clinics offering concussion care. This has resulted in some confusion over the match between how, when and what care is offered by such clinics for those who experience persistent symptoms.
“The Standards provide guidance to clinicians that will help support them to work within their scope of practice and provide the interdisciplinary care that is required,” says Corinne Kagan, Senior Director Acquired Brain Injury at ONF. “It’s important that there is a common understanding across the system regarding the processes around post-concussion care and particularly for people who experience persistent symptoms. This includes the timing of treatment and the need to have strong connections to primary care clinicians who are most likely to see these patients.”
The new Standards complement previous internationally-known work led by ONF in the development and publication of treatment guidelines for Adult and Pediatric Concussion Care. These guidelines are updated and revised every few years as new evidence emerges.
Establish consistent approach to care
ONF initiated the development of the new Standards at a spring 2016 summit and established a Standards Advisory Committee to guide the process. The goals of the Concussion Advisory Committee include reducing inconsistent care processes; encouraging development of interdisciplinary clinics or formal care networks; empowering patients to ask questions about how care is provided; and creating a platform to encourage and inform continuous improvement in post-concussion care.
Neuropsychologist Dr. Diana Velikonja led the Concussion Advisory Committee in its work. “People looking for concussion treatment must have confidence that the clinic they choose will have standard processes in place,” she says.
“The challenge will be to keep these standards practical and ensure they are easy to implement,” says Corinne. “This should help reduce the overall burden on the system, the clinicians and patients while supporting the right health care provider to deliver the right care at the right time.”
Meeting the needs of patients
Katelin Sims experienced the gaps in her own post-concussion care journey and was pleased to be able to represent patients on the Advisory Committee. “People should know that this is a journey and that it may take more time than you realize to find the best clinic and health care team,” says Katelin. “By establishing standards for the operation of clinics, over time the public can feel confident that the care practiced at a clinic follows the standard processes and care guidelines that reflect the most current research. This can help them with their recovery.”
Ruth Wilcock of the Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA) says Katelin’s experience is all too common. “Many people have knowledge of other types of injuries but concussion isn’t that well understood, so it’s difficult to know if you have found a clinic to provide the best care,” she says. “We often hear ‘where can I get help and when am I going to get better?’ They desperately try to find treatment in any form so that they can recover as quickly as possible.”
“We would like to see private practitioners such as physiotherapists or chiropractors feel they can work effectively with physicians and other health care providers in the interdisciplinary team,” she says.
“On behalf of ONF I want to express my gratitude to the many people from across this province who collaborated to develop the Standards,” says Corinne. “The Concussion Advisory Committee has worked very hard on behalf of their colleagues across the province to ensure the new Standards reflect what is truly needed to ensure patients receive the right care, at the right time by the right healthcare provider.
(June 13, 2017)