Transforming Primary Care

For most people, primary care is the first place they go for health care. In addition to individual family practices, more than 40 Primary Care Networks operate across the province providing primary health care services. IMAGINE sees working with this sector as key to bringing about a more patient-centred focus to the health system.

While we all have a major role to play in our own health and health care, primary health care is intended to help us stay healthy and regain health if we are ill. This may include help from a range of health care providers such as physicians, nurses, rehabilitation therapists, and pharmacists. There may also be connections to services and facilities in the community that we might not associate with the health care system, such as housing, employment, and income supports, but all of which are important for good health.

The Alberta government’s Primary Health Care Strategy (2014) set out a vision of “a primary health care system that supports Albertans to be as healthy as they can be”. It also has strategic directions for transforming primary health care in Alberta. Although not top of the list, the strategies include having community involvement in determining the best ways to meet unmet needs and a culture that includes people participating in their own care. Health Minister Sarah Hoffman has stated that it is important that people get the right care with the right provider but also that this happens with the right information.

Several IMAGINE Steering Committee members met with the Primary Care Alliance Board of the Alberta Medical Association on January 13, 2016 to provide an overview of IMAGINE and discuss opportunities to work together. The Primary Care Alliance Board said primary care physicians share many of the same priorities we have as patients; for example, being able to facilitate quick access for patients to specialist care and effective communications between providers are equally important to patients who need those services and the family docs who make that happen. The Primary Care Alliance is very interested in working with IMAGINE so that we can all be more effective whether as family practitioners or community residents.

IMAGINE Steering Committee member and chair of the Evidence Working Group Gail MacKean, presented on IMAGINE at a workshop on primary care research networks held at the University of Alberta February 10, 2016. The presentation focused on IMAGINE’s mission to see Albertans engaged in the design and delivery of healthcare, including engagement in research.

IMAGINE is interested in exploring ways that citizen-patients can work in partnership with health professionals to “co-design” healthcare services and systems. We strongly believe the experience that patients and families bring to the table, is valuable knowledge that we need if we are to design a truly patient-centred healthcare system. To that end, IMAGINE is collaborating with Dr. Stephanie Montesanti (Public Health, University of Alberta) on a proposal for a Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant on “Strengthening Primary Health Care in Alberta through Research, Policy and Knowledge Engagement”. Collaborating with the research team to explore how we can “co-design” the primary health care system will be helpful for us as we look for new ways of expanding and enriching citizen participation in healthcare design.