ARCHIVED Frequently asked questions about primary health care

What is the Primary Health Care Transition Fund?

Please refer to the About primary health care section of this website.

How will primary health care reform help with the doctor shortage?

A sufficient supply of health care professionals, including physicians, is certainly a key component of primary health care. However, primary health care reform involves fundamental changes to the organization and delivery of health services and not simply more of the status quo. In particular, there is a growing consensus about the potential for team-based care to provide comprehensive prevention and treatment services which, in turn, will result in improved health.

Isn't primary health care reform just about saving money by replacing doctors with lower-cost and less qualified health care providers?

Not at all. Primary health care reform offers the opportunity for health care providers to specialize in their individual scopes of practice within a supportive team environment. It is about supplementing, rather than replacing, physician services in order to provide more comprehensive care. This could include a greater focus on health promotion and illness prevention, and enhanced follow-up and active management of chronic diseases to avoid or minimize complications.

How will primary health care reform save money?

Primary health care reform is about quality improvement and, in the short run, will require new investments. For example, it takes time to develop and train teams, and investments in information technology will be required. It is a long and complex process which may take years to produce cost efficiencies, but is crucial for the long-term sustainability of the health care system.

How will primary health care reform help with waiting lists and hospital overcrowding?

Waiting lists and hospital pressures are immediate and pressing issues, and are also the subject of targeted federal funding. However, addressing these challenges in the long term also requires changes at the primary health care level. For example, many medical interventions treat conditions which could have been prevented or minimized through effective primary health care.

Does primary health care reform mean that I'll have to see a nurse or other health care provider instead of my family doctor?

No. Provinces and territories are unanimous that primary health care reform efforts will be voluntary and incremental, and that Canadians may, if they wish, continue to see their family physician as their provider of choice. However, experience from team-based models suggests that patients appreciate having access to a range of providers and are willing to see the provider most suited to their needs and circumstances.

What do family doctors think of primary health care reform?

Generally speaking, physician organizations support the idea of team-based care but do not wish to see physicians forced into new models of care. This is consistent with provincial and territorial plans which unanimously support a voluntary and incremental transition. Family physicians who have worked in multi-disciplinary team environments generally report favourably on their experiences and wish to continue working as part of a team.

What do nurse practitioners do?

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with additional education in the diagnosis and management of illness and injury. They usually work in a collaborative team with doctors and other health care professionals, and they complement (rather than replace) other providers. Their scope of practice often includes ordering diagnostic tests and prescribing medications, but their precise roles and responsibilities may vary from one province or territory to another.

I like the idea of team-based care. How can I find out about options in my region?

Contact your provincial or territorial department of health for more details.

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