Primary Care Networks review

Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are groups of family physicians who work with Alberta Health Services and other health professionals – such as nurses, dieticians and pharmacists – to coordinate and deliver primary health care services to Albertans.

Why the review?

Alberta Health undertook a review of Primary Care Networks (the Review) in 2015 as part of the ministry’s internal oversight responsibility to ensure primary health care is being delivered in an effective manner. The Review involved an analysis of the financial practices and service delivery approaches of a sample of 13 PCNs and the Primary Care Networks Program Management Office.

The Review also served to address the 2012 Auditor General’s recommendation that Alberta Health improve systematic oversight of PCNs. Specifically, the Auditor General’s report recommended obtaining assurance that PCNs are complying with the financial and operating policies of the Primary Care Network program, and ensuring that surplus funds are used in a timely and sustainable manner.

The Review supports the government’s goal of ensuring Albertans are getting the right care, in the right place, at the right time, by the right healthcare team, with the right information.

Review findings

The Review found the majority of PCNs are delivering quality, patient-focused health care, but it also found variability in service and financial practices, indicating the need for more consistent support and policy direction. Findings included:

  • inconsistency in fiscal management and accountability;
  • problems with the current funding model;
  • limited progress on the development of interdisciplinary team-based care;
  • insufficient coordination with other health services and community-based social services; and
  • lacking evidence of how programs and services target population health needs.

All PCNs that participated in the Review conveyed a dedicated commitment towards meeting the primary health care needs of their patients.

Review outcomes

Alberta Health has already updated some policies for PCNs that set clearer financial guidelines, and will be working with PCNs to make more changes related to:

  • governance accountability
  • financial accountability
  • service responsibilities
  • team-based care

Alberta Health will also consult with stakeholders as it looks for ways to expand after-hours access for patients and develops a new funding model that promotes more team-based care. These changes will be made in the coming months.

More information