Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Primary Care?
  2. What is a Primary Care Network?
  3. Why are Primary Care Networks being developed?
  4. How will Primary Care Networks change my care?
  5. What are the benefits to patients in Primary Care Networks?
  6. Are all Primary Care Networks the same?
  7. Who provides services in a Primary Care Network?
  8. Will all Primary Care Networks deliver the same services?
  9. What health care services will Primary Care Networks provide?
  10. Do individual physicians have to personally provide every service?
  11. Will my doctor be available to me 24 hours a day in this new system?
  12. Do I have to go through my family doctor, or could I go straight to the specialist?
  13. Will all family physicians participate in Primary Care Networks?
  14. If my doctor belongs to a Primary Care Network, will I still be able to see a doctor who isn’t part of that Primary Care Network?
  15. Do physicians have to have hospital privileges to be in a Primary Care Network?

 

What is Primary Care?

Primary care is the first point of contact people have with the health system. It’s where patients receive care for their everyday health needs; illness prevention, health promotion, care for common illnesses and management of ongoing health problems. It’s the care provided by family doctors and other health care providers such as nurses, dietitians, mental health professionals, pharmacists, and others. For example, a patient with high blood pressure may not only see their family doctor, but also a nurse who will regularly monitor their blood pressure, and a dietitian for help with selecting the right foods to eat.

What is a Primary Care Network?

Primary Care Networks are formal arrangements between a group of family doctors and their health region to jointly provide comprehensive primary care services to their patients. Both family doctors and health regions provide primary care services. By working together more closely, they can better coordinate services and improve access to primary care services.

Why are Primary Care Networks being developed?

Alberta already has excellent primary care services and excellent health professionals to provide care. Primary Care Networks build on the strengths of the current health care system by working to improve how we deliver primary care services to patients. In some cases, Primary Care Networks may also add health professionals like nurses, pharmacists, therapists and others to the health care team in the network. Overall, Primary Care Networks work to achieve objectives set out by the provincial program:

  • Increase the number of Albertans with access to primary care
  • Provide coordinated 24 hour, 7-day-per-week management of access to appropriate primary care services
  • Increase emphasis on health promotion, disease and injury prevention, and the care of patients with chronic illnesses
  • Improve coordination and integration with other health care services
  • Foster a team approach to providing comprehensive primary care

How will Primary Care Networks change my care?

The introduction of Primary Care Networks won’t lead to overnight changes. It will take time for each network to introduce new programs and put its new ideas into practice. From your perspective, the way care is delivered through your Primary Care Network may not seem much different from the way you receive it now. Behind the scenes, things will run more smoothly, reducing time spent coordinating care and freeing up busy health professionals to look after you and other patients. As you do now, you may occasionally see another health provider for some services. If your doctor is part of a Primary Care Network, many things won’t change:

  • You will still make appointments with your family doctor
  • The medical services you receive that are publicly funded remain publicly funded in a network

What are the benefits to patients in Primary Care Networks?

Once Primary Care Networks are well established, we anticipate:

  • More Albertans will be able to find a family physician
  • Primary care services (e.g., home care, public health and other services) will be better integrated between doctors and the local health region
  • Patients will have access to a comprehensive range of primary care services within their Primary Care Network (i.e. obstetrical services, palliative care, in-hospital care)
  • There will be increased focus on health promotion, disease prevention, and care for patients with chronic diseases

Are all Primary Care Networks the same?

Every Primary Care Network is unique, developed by local family doctors and their health region. Local networks are part of the provincial Primary Care Initiative program. While the provincial program provides direction, each Primary Care Network is different. The local approach allows, and encourages, the network to focus on the needs of its own patients and to develop local approaches to meet their particular needs.

Who provides services in a Primary Care Network?

The health region and family physicians work together in a Primary Care Network and jointly provide care to patients. Both parties provide services and resources. A network may form linkages with specialists and may link to other health professionals to form part of the multidisciplinary team. Your family physician will still be your major provider of care. As well, the network may hire nurses or other health care professionals to help with some aspects of care. The health region will also be involved through home care, public health, hospitals and long-term care facilities, etc.

Will all Primary Care Networks deliver the same services?

Every Primary Care Network will provide the same required services, however, a network has the flexibility to deliver required services in a way that meets the needs of the local population. Each network will be unique and tailored to work at the local level. For example, Primary Care Networks are responsible for providing palliative care (care for the terminally ill). One local network may set up a program with a team of health care professionals to provide palliative care services; another network may take a completely different approach. Both will provide palliative care, but do it in a way that works best locally.

What health care services will Primary Care Networks provide?

Primary Care Networks may provide the following services:

  • Primary care services provided for patients
  • Basic non-hospital care (ambulatory care)
  • Care of complex health problems and follow-up
  • Psychological counselling
  • Chronic disease screening and prevention
  • Family planning and pregnancy counselling
  • Care for healthy children
  • Pregnancy and delivering babies (obstetrics)
  • Care during terminal illness (palliative)
  • Care for chronic illness
  • Elder care (geriatrics)
  • Minor surgery
  • Minor emergency care
  • In-hospital or long-term facility primary care
  • Rehabilitation
  • Information management (ensuring patient privacy)
  • Community health and promotion (“population health”)
  • Services that link primary care and other areas
  • 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-per-year management of access to appropriate primary care services
  • Access to laboratory and diagnostic imaging
  • Coordination of:
    • Home care
    • Emergency room services
    • Long-term care
    • Secondary care
    • Public health

Do individual physicians have to personally provide every service?

No. A Primary Care Network provides all service responsibilities. However, individual physicians do not have to personally provide each service. If your family doctor does not provide a particular service, someone in or linked to the network will. This makes referral easier.

Will my doctor be available to me 24 hours a day in this new system?

No, individual physicians will not be available 24/7. But Primary Care Networks will direct patients to after hours care to meet their urgent health needs.

Do I have to go through my family doctor, or could I go straight to the specialist?

You would still initially contact your family doctor. Your doctor would remain the first point of contact for the system and would decide when to refer you to a specialist. Most specialists do not take patients without a referral from a family physician.

Will all family physicians participate in Primary Care Networks?

Participation in Primary Care Networks is voluntary for physicians. Some physicians will choose to work within these new networks and some will not.

If my doctor belongs to a Primary Care Network, will I still be able to see a doctor who isn’t part of that Primary Care Network?

Yes, patients are free to make their own choices about the health care they seek out.

Do physicians have to have hospital privileges to be in a Primary Care Network?

In-patient primary care is provided by the network. However, every physician in a network does not need to provide in-hospital care. The Primary Care Network may have physicians or link with physicians who provide in-patient care. For more information about the Chinook Primary Care Network, please speak with your family physician, health region, or contact our office.

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