What is primary health care?

You may not immediately recognize primary health care, but it is essentially the first level of contact that you have with the health care system. That could mean seeing your family doctor, health unit, pharmacy, or clinic. Or it could mean phoning an advice line staffed by health professionals, or even attending a self-care workshop to learn how to take a more active role in your own health. Primary health care involves treating short-term health problems, managing long-term health conditions such as diabetes, and even helping you learn how to prevent injury and illness. Prevention is a key objective of primary health care.

Governments across Canada are working to strengthen primary health care to improve health care services for Canadians. When properly organized and coordinated, primary health care has enormous potential to introduce improvements in the health system. For you, your family, and other Canadians, it can mean better care, shorter waiting lists, improved access to health care services, and a more sustainable health care system.

Primary health care is about:

1. A team approach
A team approach means that different health care professionals work together - often in a single location - sharing information about treatment goals and what has worked and what hasn't, in order to provide you and your neighbours with the best and most appropriate care. You are encouraged to become an active member of that team and take part in the decision-making process for your care.

2. Information
Health care professionals, such as your family doctor and your nurse or specialist, can communicate with one another more easily and efficiently, thanks to advances in technology, such as faster computers, greater electronic information storage capabilities, and improved security measures that protect and secure private information when it is stored, retrieved, and shared.

Information sharing between members of your health care team is vital to ensure that each professional applies their own expertise to your care without duplicating effort or creating conditions that would adversely affect another aspect of your care. The result is more efficient and appropriate care. Technology such as electronic health records and small portable computers that put health information quickly and easily in the hands of health care professionals are important tools that will help to ensure the best health outcomes for you and your family.

You can be assured your medical records are private. Laws are in place across Canada to protect the privacy of these electronic health records.

3. Access
Initiatives are underway to improve access to health care information and services when you need them, where you need them. Many people across the country already have such access to tools such as toll-free health information lines and video conferencing links. Primary health care initiatives are working to ensure that you and every Canadian, no matter where you live, have similar access to these types of health services. Not only will this reduce trips to the more costly emergency department when a conversation with a health provider can help, it helps to ensure improved access to emergency services for you when you truly need them. It also translates into lower overall costs to the health system.

4. Healthy living
Promoting healthy living helps prevent illness and injuries. Primary health care providers support healthy lifestyle choices and contribute to safe communities. Providers can also help you to manage chronic health conditions to prevent complications and stay healthy. Healthier people means reduced treatment costs - and reduced treatment costs help lead to a more sustainable health care system.

We will look at what primary health care can offer with the help of a hypothetical family: Alex (age 22) and her parents Mitchell (age 65) and Diane (age 56).*

* Note: The stories of Mitchell, Diane, and Alex are hypothetical stories based on the goals and vision of primary health care.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/The-Future-of-Primary-Health-Care