Family Physicians &
Primary Care Toolkit for Family Physicians
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Family physicians are the backbone of the healthcare system in each community and key to primary care renewal. Dr. Barbara Starfield's work in primary care is well known for its conclusions that a strong primary care system and practice characteristics such as coordination and community orientation are associated with better health indicators and improved health outcomes. As the system evolves to manage greater complexity in the health of Canadians and to include other relevant healthcare providers, family physicians are also key to patient satisfaction and acceptance. Patients view the health system through the eyes of their family physician and patient evaluations rise or fall through that lens. No doubt the central role of the family physician in coordinating care for patients, maintaining continuity of care and ensuring care is comprehensive, contributes to the value that patients attribute to their family physician.
Primary healthcare is only part of the entire healthcare system. And while a broad base of healthcare services received by Canadians defines it, it is not a silo unto itself. Primary healthcare is part of an integrated system of care that provides first access for patients to the whole healthcare system. To view it otherwise is to fragment patient care. One of the unique features of family physicians is that their responsibilities encompass all levels of care — primary, secondary and tertiary.
Most patients never access care beyond the primary healthcare system, emphasizing the need for sufficient resources to support the important work of family physicians and other providers working in frontline services. Nevertheless, primary healthcare itself extends beyond health promotion and disease prevention to include a wide array of other services integrated with healthcare, e.g. education, justice and community social programs. Family physicians therefore view primary care as more than just healthcare but also as an ever-expanding range of primary care services that require their knowledge and expertise in advocating for and advising their patients. This recognition has implications for many aspects of primary healthcare, including the development of interdisciplinary teams and the establishment of community health advisory boards.