Primary health care

Primary health care is your first point of contact with the health system, bringing health services closer to where you live and work.
Regardless of where it happens, primary health care is an important part of helping you to be healthy. Primary health care is the first place people go for:
  • health care or wellness advice and programs
  • treatment of a health issue or injury
  • to diagnose and manage a health condition

Primary health care includes all the services in your community that support the day-to-day health needs of you and your family through every stage of life. Those services may include:

  • a visit to your family doctor
  • a consultation from a nurse practitioner
  • advice from a pharmacist
  • an appointment with a dietitian or therapist

Primary health care includes a focus on wellness, and connecting you with social supports that influence your health status, such as housing or parental support.

Primary health care draws on the expertise of many different providers working together. It recognizes that your health, wellness and quality of life are influenced by your economic, cultural and physical situations, and your spiritual beliefs.

Improving Albertans’ access to team-based primary health care is a priority for the Alberta government. It is one of the ways we’re building a health and health-care system that provides the right care, in the right place, at the right time, by the right health professionals, with the right information.

You need a health home

A health home is your “home base” in the health care system. It is the place where you access primary health care from a team and get connected to the health and social services you need.

  • Your main point of contact for your health home is usually your family doctor's clinic.

Health homes will be different across Alberta, but they all have the same role:

  • they are a place where you get primary health care services from a team
  • are connected with other services
  • have your health care journey co-ordinated and managed

Continuity of care with a health home

One of the main benefits of having a health home is continuity of care. This means you have an ongoing relationship with your family doctor or nurse practitioner and team. Your health information is transferred between care providers, and care is co-ordinated across different settings.

More benefits of continuity of care include:

  • timely access to a trusted primary health care team
  • more support to achieve personal health care goals
  • more preventive care and chronic disease management
  • a care team who will partner with you to manage your health care journey

Having a consistent relationship means your health care providers know your medical history. This reduces the number of times you have to tell your story or undergo duplicate tests.

  • Your knowledge, ideas, and preferences will be valued.
  • You will be actively engaged in health care decision-making, which helps providers to better plan and co-ordinate your care.

Evidence shows that people who have a regular primary health care provider or team:

  • are more satisfied with their care
  • receive more preventive and chronic disease care
  • make fewer visits to the emergency room
  • are not admitted to hospital as often

You can help maintain continuity of care by going to your regular family doctor or nurse practitioner when you need a health service.

If your regular provider is unavailable, you can seek care from other members of the team or clinic who will then share information with your regular health provider to ensure continuity of care.

When you require urgent medical attention from an emergency department, you can make sure someone in your health home is aware of the visit.

Need a family doctor? Need a health home?

If you are looking for a family doctor for your health home, go to:

Find out more about continuity of care

Primary health care models in Alberta

Alberta has several team-based approaches to primary health care, including:

  • Primary Care Networks (PCNs) – in operation since 2003, PCNs include inter-disciplinary teams that are jointly governed by groups of family physicians and Alberta Health Services. Alberta has 41 PCNs with approximately 3,800 physicians and the full-time-equivalent of 1,000 other health-care providers. The networks provide primary health-care services to close to 3.6 million Albertans.
  • Family Care Clinics (FCCs) – introduced in early 2012, FCCs provide direct access to a team of health professionals, and to other community and support services.
  • Community Health Centres – Community Health Centres are front-line healthcare and social support centres that integrate team-based care with health promotion, social services, and community programs that address social barriers to health.

Read more about team-based primary health care models

Improving Alberta’s primary health-care system

A lot of work has been done to improve primary health-care delivery in Alberta since the Primary Health Care Strategy was released in 2014.

The strategy was originally built on 3 strategic directions. Today, primary health care in Alberta is being improved through 5 main strategic directions:

  • bring about cultural change
  • enhance the delivery of care
  • establish building blocks for change
  • design health services on population health and cultural needs
  • increase value and return on public investment

More information