Report lauds progress on Primary Care Networks
Management of Alberta’s Primary Care Networks has improved substantially over the past five years, but much work remains to make the system more accountable to patients, the province’s auditor general says.
“The significance of the PCN program to the health-care system underscores the importance of setting clear objectives and performance measures for the program and reporting on results achieved,” Merwan Saher said in his latest report, delivered Thursday.
Alberta has 42 Primary Care Networks, which are groups of family physician offices that work
together to care for patients. Collectively the networks are receiving $240 million in provincial funding this year, money that is used to hire other health professionals such as therapists and pharmacists, who are shared around each network.
The idea is that patients will receive better care if they have access to a team of health professionals all working from the same care plan.
However, reviews of PCNs in recent years found wide inconsistencies in how the networks were performing. An audit from Saher’s office in 2012 called on the health department to improve its management of PCNs, in part by establishing clear expectations, and by better informing patients of PCN services.
Saher’s latest report followed up on that 2012 audit, finding recent work to implement a new governance structure, strengthen physician-patient relationships and other efforts was sufficient to meet the “underlying intent” of his earlier recommendations.
However, the followup audit also found continued inconsistencies in some areas, including how well PCNs track and report their performance.