Toward a Primary Care Strategy for Canada

Full Report (PDF, 770 KB)


Why a Strategy? Why Now?

  • High-performing primary care is widely recognized as the foundation of an effective and efficient healthcare system.
  • Countries with a strong primary care sector achieve superior health outcomes at lower cost.
  • Over the past decade, Canadian provinces and territories have introduced primary care reform initiatives that focus on strengthening the infrastructure for primary care and establishing funding and payment models that promote performance improvement.
  • Despite significant progress since 2000, the performance of Canadian primary care trails that of many other high-income countries in timely access to care, organization and co-ordination of care, patient-centredness, team-based care, use of electronic medical records and quality improvement, pointing to opportunities for substantial improvement.
  • The aims, functions, features and impacts of high-functioning primary care have become increasingly clear through accumulated research evidence and experience.
  • We are now in a better position than ever before to strive for a broad consensus among major stakeholders on a strategy for primary care that builds on the advances made during the last decade.
  • That strategy could serve as a touchstone for health policy makers and health system leaders at the federal, provincial/territorial, regional, local and organizational levels.
  • Canadian and international evidence and experience paint a clear picture of the features of high performing primary care.

What Needs to Be Done?

  • Primary care transformation at the provincial/territorial, regional and local levels should target the features of high-performing primary care and be guided by a set of agreed-upon principles.
  • Minimum requirements for continued progress include: targeted investments in primary care transformation; healthcare governance mechanisms at the community, regional and provincial/territorial levels; engagement of healthcare providers in a collaborative approach to policy development and implementation; and comprehensive performance measurement to support quality improvement and accountability.
  • Through concerted effort, guided by an evidence-informed vision and sound principles of transformation, Canada’s provinces and territories can build primary care systems over the next decade that provide the foundation for integrated healthcare systems that deliver health outcomes, patient experience and value for money at the world’s best levels.