Primary care includes all the services you receive for your basic, everyday health needs. It is often called the front door to health care - your entry point into the health-care system. It might be a visit to your family doctor, a call to Health Link or an appointment with a therapist.
In Alberta, primary care services are provided by both family doctors and Alberta Health Services (AHS). It includes the initial care, treatment and follow-up of various conditions as well as referrals to the rest of the health system when needed. It also encompasses the promotion of wellness, and prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries.
Why is primary care important?
Primary care is the foundation to building healthier communities and a strong, sustainable health-care system. It gives you and your family a home in the health-care system, supported by a team who know and understand your unique needs.
Not everybody needs to be treated in a hospital, not everyone needs to go to an Emergency Department or have an operation but every single Albertan needs primary care. And, if you have strong primary care services, you’re less likely to need that hospital care down the road.
Building a primary care foundation
AHS is focused on strengthening access, quality and sustainability of primary care services to improve the health and wellness of all Albertans.
- Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Primary care shifts the emphasis from treating illness to creating health and wellness. AHS is helping individuals to be proactive about their own health by providing programs and services that encourage overall wellness in communities, schools and workplaces.
- Teaming Up
Having a team of health-care providers means you’ll get the care you need from the professional trained in that area. A successful primary care team includes family physicians and other health professionals such as mental health specialists, dieticians, pharmacists and registered nurses working together. Alberta has two team-based approaches to providing primary care, Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and Family Care Clinics (FCCs).
PCNs, in operation since 2003, are physician-led teams of health-care providers. Alberta has 40 PCNs across the province, almost 2,500 doctors work in PCNs supporting 2.8 million Albertans.
FCCs, a new approach to primary care, were introduced in early 2012. FCCs provide direct access to a variety of health professionals and link directly to other community and support services.
- Unlimited Access
Regardless of where you live in Alberta, answers to your health questions are available 24/7. Health Link provides telephone advice from registered nurses and other health professionals by dialling 811 and www.myhealth.alberta.ca provides trusted online health information created specifically for Albertans.
- Chronic Disease Management
30% of Albertans report having at least one long-term or chronic condition like obesity, diabetes or depression and many have more than one. The very best place to support people with chronic disease is through primary care, with a team of health-care providers that understand the patient’s unique needs. This care helps empower people to feel better by teaching them to take control of their own health.
Working with other primary care providers, AHS helps individuals manage their chronic illness through patient education, exercise and self-management strategies.
- Addiction and Mental Health
AHS is integrating addiction and mental health support into primary care services throughout Alberta. This helps identify concerns sooner and connects patients with the treatment, resources and ongoing care they require.