Primary Health Care in Canada: Systems in Motion

June 2011 | Brian Hutchison, Jean-Frederic Levesque, Erin Strumpf, Natalie Coyle

Context: During the 1980s and 1990s, innovations in the organization, funding, and delivery of primary health care in Canada were at the periphery of the system rather than at its core. In the early 2000s, a new policy environment emerged.
Methods: This policy analysis examines primary health care reform efforts in Canada during the last decade, drawing on descriptive information from published and gray literature and from a series of semistructured interviews with informed observers of primary health care in Canada.
Findings: Primary health care in Canada has entered a period of potentially transformative change. Key initiatives include support for interprofessional primary health care teams, group practices and networks, patient enrollment with a primary care provider, financial incentives and blended-payment schemes, development of primary health care governance mechanisms, expansion of the primary health care provider pool, implementation of electronic medical records, and quality improvement training and support.
Conclusions: Canada’s experience suggests that primary health care transformation can be achieved voluntarily in a pluralistic system of private health care delivery, given strong government and professional leadership working in concert.

Author(s): Brian Hutchison; Jean-Frederic Levesque; Erin Strumpf; Natalie Coyle

Keywords: primary health care; health care reform; health policy; physicians; family

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Volume 89, Issue 2 (pages 256–288)
DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2011.00628.x
Published in 2011