Transforming dementia care in Ontario
In her early days as a family physician, Dr. Linda Lee noticed a troubling trend: individuals with memory changes and dementia were going undiagnosed and under-treated. She witnessed first-hand the challenges that patients and families experienced due to delays in diagnosis and proper care.
In 2006, Dr. Lee envisioned a way to change this. She has since transformed dementia care across the province.
Dr. Lee is Schlegel Chair in Primary Care for Elders at the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA). Her role results from a partnership with the Centre for Family Medicine Family Health Team, where she is a practicing physician and the founder of the Centre’s innovative model of care for people with dementia, now known as the MINT Memory Clinic model.
The MINT (multispecialty, interprofessional team) Memory Clinic approach is the realization of Dr. Lee’s early vision of dementia care. Her model integrates assessment, treatment planning, and links to community supports – all under one roof. Patients are supported by a diverse team of clinicians, including family physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and occupational therapists, all of whom are trained to specialize in dementia and memory changes. The team helps patients and families navigate all aspects of care, including referrals to specialists and community resources when needed. Importantly, the care team works directly with each patient’s family doctor, closing gaps along the continuum of care.
“The idea behind this model was to connect patients with the right resources at the right time to improve their health outcomes and reduce needless strain on individuals and their families,” says Dr. Lee.
“It’s a collaborative approach that puts the patient first. Everyone’s journey with memory changes or dementia is different. With this model, we can provide individualized care plans that address each patient’s unique needs, while also supporting care partners.”
The MINT model launched in 2006 at the Centre for Family Medicine in Kitchener and in 2012, a pilot site serving the broader community opened at the Village of Winston Park long-term care and retirement home. Since that time, the growth of Dr. Lee’s model has been supported by the RIA and many other organizations. The clinic model has been replicated in many diverse settings across Ontario. A decade after the model’s launch, 78 clinics were up and running. Today, there are more than 100 MINT Memory Clinics operating across the province.
“Many of our clinics now operate within the offices of family physicians,” says Dr. Lee.
“This means that doctors can offer improved access to expertise and care, and patients can receive the help they need, right in their home community. This has a profound impact on patients and families who can now more easily access the support they need.”
But the MINT model has also had a profound impact on Ontario’s health care system.
A third-party evaluation commissioned by the Government of Ontario in 2019 found that MINT Memory Clinic care was associated with reduced wait times to access dementia care by 50% and significant dementia-related cost savings for the Ontario health care system, including:
- A 50% reduction in emergency department costs;
- A 55% reduction in inpatient hospital costs;
- A 20% reduction in long-term care costs, and
- A 38% reduction in health care costs per day for people receiving dementia care.
The evaluation also noted that MINT Memory Clinics were able to meet the health care needs of 90% of people living with dementia.
“Dr. Lee’s model has transformed how Ontario cares for people living with dementia,” says Josie d’Avernas, executive director of the RIA.
“The RIA is proud to support Dr. Lee’s vision, and we hope this model will continue to expand and benefit more people across Canada.”
Dr. Lee’s success is a prime example of how the RIA drives innovation to solve real world problems and enhance quality of life and care for older adults everywhere.
You can learn more about MINT Memory Clinics here.