Why is primary care so important?
“Primary care is the first point of contact a person has with the health system – the point where people receive care for most of their everyday health needs. Primary care is the first point of contact a person has with the health system – the point where people receive care for most of their everyday health needs. Primary care is typically provided by family physicians, and by nurses, dietitians, mental health professionals, pharmacists, therapists, and others” (What is primary care?)
Divisions of Family Practice
Under the auspices of the General Practice Service Committee, the Divisions of Family Practice was designed to both improve patient care and address family doctors’ influence on health care and professional satisfaction. Family doctors in a community organize themselves into a non-profit to work towards common health care goals. They are able to receive funding towards their initiatives.
I learned about this initiative when I listened to a presentation made to seniors by the White Rock South Surrey Division. One of the first of three to be established in BC, this division seeks to improve:
- population health
- the patient/provider experience
- system sustainability
I was impressed that this division of 73 members has 3 staff members. Their programs promote enhanced hospital care, local citizens’ access to a family doctor (through the attachment initiative), recruitment of additional doctors to ease the shortage and continuing education programs for doctors.
Their key initiative is the Primary Care Access Clinic which supports unattached patients (lacking a family doctor) who require care upon discharge from Peace Arch Hospital. The clinic is staffed by a multidisciplinary team which includes nurse practitioners, mental health care staff and social workers and home health workers who can refer patients to needed services and monitor complex cases.
When I mentioned this interesting model to a pharmacist colleague, he had an interesting comment. He said that progressive practices will usually recognize the need to have nurse practioners, social workers…but for some reason, they don’t seem to see the need for a pharmacist. This is partly because pharmacists are often perceived as retail, business rather than clinical specialists. In addition, the physician-pharmacist interactions tend to be negative because pharmacists will usually only call physicians with bad news – that they made a mistake.
With 24 divisions, the Divisions of Family Practice model seems to be really taking off and advancing primary care. Their progressive and patient-centric approach is extremely important and they can be important allies in promoting health literacy and other key but often-neglected patient oriented interventions. However, is my colleague right – that they are failing to include pharmacists in their care teams? What are pharmacists doing to improve their interactions with and perceptions by physicians?