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Monday, January 21, 2013

What are primary care physicians across Canada saying about the health system?

Today, we’re excited to release the 7th bulletin in our Canadian Health Care Matters series, which reports on health system performance. For the first time in the series, we report on the perspectives of primary care physicians - who are most Canadians’ first point of contact with the health care system - on how they rate the care their patients receive.

Every year the Commonwealth Fund conducts an international health policy survey, offering comparative insight into health care experiences across countries. Our report looks at results from the 2012 survey of over 10,000 physicians in Canada and 9 other countries. We’ve been pleased to co-fund the Commonwealth Fund surveys for many years, and several key organizations (the Alberta Health Quality Council, Health Quality Ontario, the Quebec Health and Welfare Commissioner, and Canada Health Infoway) have joined us to allow for larger, more representative survey samples across Canada.

In this bulletin, we focus on several key areas of health system performance: access to primary care, coordination among health care providers, the uptake of information technology, and initiatives to drive practice improvement. With larger sample sizes, we were able to compare how health care experiences vary from province to province. We also assessed how Canada ranks internationally, and finally examined how our performance has changed over time using similar survey questions from 2006 and 2009.

Although the importance of primary care has been gaining attention from policy-makers across Canada, we found wide variations in performance among provinces, pointing to the potential for improvement. While provinces have clearly achieved progress in some aspects of care, nationally we continue to lag behind leading countries in access to care and the use of information technology.

As governments across the country continue to invest in primary health care, this bulletin highlights where provinces can learn from one another, and where we might look to international examples for guidance.

Download our report, How do Canadian primary care physicians rate the health system?, and let us know if our findings resonate with you.

Sukirtha Tharmalingam, Senior Policy Analyst, Health Council of Canada

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