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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Learning from primary care physicians

While we often hear about surveys of the public’s views and experiences with health care, we don’t often hear from physicians. What do they think about the health system and the care their patients receive?

Primary care has been the focus of considerable policy attention across Canada and internationally. Government-led initiatives are promoting changes like greater use of electronic medical records (EMRs), interprofessional team-based care, and innovations in practice management to help primary care physicians see more patients, more effectively. How widespread are these changes and what impact are they having?

To help answer these and related questions, The Commonwealth Fund spearheaded an international survey of more than 10,000 primary care physicians in Canada and 10 other OECD countries. Today, The Commonwealth Fund published its analysis of the findings in Health Affairs.

We’ve also been busy analyzing the survey results. For some years now, we’ve been a co-funder of The Commonwealth Fund’s annual international health policy surveys. Several key organizations joined us in co-funding larger, more representative survey samples in Canada – the Alberta Health Quality Council, Health Quality Ontario, the Quebec Health and Welfare Commissioner, and Canada Health Infoway.

Today, Canada Health Infoway released some key findings from the survey on EMR adoption in particular. Have a look at their release here. We will also be expanding on both the Commonwealth Fund’s analysis in Health Affairs and Canada Health Infoway’s release. Watch for our results in January 2013 – Bulletin 7 in our Canadian Health Care Matters series. Our bulletin will focus on several key areas of health system performance – access to primary care, coordination among health care providers, and the uptake of information technology. We’ll also report on the use of incentive payments to drive improvements in primary care and on primary care physicians’ general perceptions of the system and the care their patients receive.

This year, for the first time, we are able to report on province-by-province results. We’ve identified a number of variations among the provinces in some of these areas – not surprising given that each province and territory runs its own health system based on its local priorities and policies. The purpose of our comparative analysis is to shed light on the relative impact of improvement initiatives.

We’ll also show how Canada as a whole compares to other countries in the survey. And we’ll look at trends over time by charting how key aspects of primary care have changed (or not) based on similar surveys of physicians in 2006 and 2009.

Look for our report this January at:

Sukirtha Tharmalingam, Senior Policy Analyst, Health Council of Canada 

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