Frequently Asked Questions About Primary Care Networks

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1 Frequently Asked Questions About Primary Care Networks 1. 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 basic, everyday health needs. It s the care provided by family doctors, and by health care providers such as nurses, dietitians, mental health professionals, pharmacists, and others. In short, it is care that does not require referral to a specialist. 2. What is a Primary Care Network? Primary Care Networks are formal arrangements between a group of family doctors and their health region to work together to provide comprehensive primary care services. Both family doctors and health regions provide primary care services. By working together more closely, they can better coordinate services and work to improve access to primary care services. These networks build on the strengths of the current health care system. Family doctors link together in networks that work with the health region to provide coordinated basic medical care. 3. Why are Primary Care Networks being developed? Alberta already has excellent primary care services and excellent health professionals to provide care. Primary Care Networks will 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 and others to the health care team in the network. Overall, Primary Care Networks will work toward objectives set out for the provincial program: Increase the proportion of Albertans with ready 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 Facilitate greater use of multi-disciplinary teams to provide comprehensive primary care 1

2 4. 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. But behind the scenes, things should run more smoothly, reducing time spent coordinating care. As you do now, you may occasionally see another health provider for some services. In a Primary Care Network, you will still make appointments with your family doctor. The medical services you receive that are publicly funded remain publicly funded in a network. 5. What are the anticipated benefits for patients in Primary Care Networks? Once Primary Care Networks are well established, it is anticipated: 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 6. 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. The provincial program is publicly funded. Representatives from Alberta Health and Wellness, the Alberta Medical Association and Alberta s health regions oversee the 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 needs. 7. Who provides services in a Primary Care Network? The health region and family physicians work together in a Primary Care Network and jointly provide primary health services to patients. Generally, your family physician will still be your major provider of care. The health region will be involved as it provides care through home care, public health, hospitals and long-term care facilities. A network may also form linkages with specialists and may link to other health professionals to form part of the multi-disciplinary team that provides some health services. Primary Care Network FAQs 2

3 8. Do all Primary Care Networks deliver the same services? Every Primary Care Network will provide the same basic services, however, a network has the flexibility to deliver 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. 9. What health care services do Primary Care Networks provide? Primary Care Networks provide comprehensive care by: Providing primary care services to 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 ) Linking with other services including: 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-per-year management of access to appropriate primary care services Access to laboratory and diagnostic imaging Coordination of: o Home care o Emergency room services o Long-term care o Secondary care o Public health Primary Care Network FAQs 3

4 10. Do individual physicians personally provide every service? No. A Primary Care Network provides all the listed services. 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. Of course, patients continue to have the option to choose their health providers. 11. 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. 12. 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 and would decide when to refer you to a specialist. Most specialists do not take patients without a referral from a family physician. 13. 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. 14. Are all doctors in a region required to participate? Physicians have the option to participate in a Primary Care Network. 15. 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. 16. 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. 17. What are the benefits for physicians in a Primary Care Network? Local networks provide the opportunity for physicians to: Better coordinate primary care services with the health region Work with other health professionals Establish linkages that streamline care and reduce wayfinding for referrals Spend time with patients with complex issues Recruit and retain more family physicians Primary Care Network FAQs 4

5 18. What is Alberta s Primary Care Initiative? The Primary Care Initiative (PCI) is one of four strategic physician agreements negotiated in the 2003 Master Agreement between the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), Alberta Health and Wellness (AHW) and Alberta s regional health authorities (RHAs). PCI sets out a new way to provide comprehensive primary care services to Albertans through a formal arrangement between a group of physicians and their RHA, and a collaborative approach to caring for patients. 19. How is the PCI agreement managed? The Primary Care Initiative Committee (PCIC) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the PCI agreement. PCIC consists of three representatives each from Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta Medical Association and the regional health authorities. PCIC responsibilities include: Promoting and supporting development of Primary Care Networks Developing policy and process to guide Primary Care Initiative roll-out Establishing province-wide standards and criteria Developing accountability, monitoring and evaluation for networks Operation of the PCI agreement is the responsibility of the PCI Program Management Office. 20. How can I learn more about Primary Care Networks and the Primary Care Initiative? Ask your family doctor, call the local health region, or your questions to r:\primary care initiative\primary care initiative committee (pcic)\communications\faqs for the public\faq - public for website nov doc Primary Care Network FAQs 5

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