Primary health care is the first place people go for:
- health care or wellness advice and programs
- non emergent 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. Some examples of those services include:
- a visit to your primary care provider (family doctor or nurse practitioner)
- a consultation with a specialist (for example, a cardiologist, surgeon or dermatologist)
- 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 family and community services.
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.
Find a doctor or health home
Regular and ongoing care
Your main point of contact for your health home is usually your family doctor's clinic. A health home is your “home base” in the health care system.
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 and connect to other health and social services you need
- they 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 you and your medical history. This reduces the number of times you have to tell your story or undergo duplicate tests.
- Your knowledge, ideas, and preferences are valued.
- You actively engage 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.
When you require urgent medical attention from an emergency department, you can make sure someone in your health home is aware of the visit.
Primary health care models
Alberta has 3 main primary health care models. They all operate a team-based approach where a team of providers work together to provide primary health care services that meet the needs of Albertans.
Primary Care Networks
PCNs are the most common model of team-based primary health care delivery in Alberta. PCNs are groups of doctors working together with teams of health care professionals, such as nurses, dietitians and pharmacists, to meet the primary health care needs of people in their communities.
About 80% of primary care physicians are registered in a PCN. There are close to 3.8 million Albertans enrolled with a PCN.
- Learn more about Primary Care Networks
- Read the Primary Care Networks profiles
- Read the Primary Care Networks review
PCN governance is provided through a Provincial PCN Committee that is chaired by Alberta Health and includes representatives from PCNs and Alberta Health Services. The committee provides advice to the ministry and sets direction for PCNs. Five Zone PCN Committees report to the Provincial PCN Committee.
To provide more community-based health care closer to where Albertans live, the Zone PCN Committees assess the health needs of people in their area and create service plans to address gaps in health service delivery. Each Zone PCN Committee includes representatives from PCNs, Alberta Health Services and local communities.
The Provincial and Zone PCN Committees are working to:
- integrate and align health service delivery between PCNs, Alberta Health Services and community-based organizations that also deliver health services
- support standard and consistent delivery for Albertans across the province
PCN Nurse Practitioner Support program
A new nurse practitioner support program for PCNs will improve access to timely care by using the expertise of nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners are experienced registered nurses with advanced education who provide a full range of comprehensive health services.
This program builds on the $10-million nurse practitioner demonstration projects that launched in 2016 to explore the increased use of nurse practitioners in primary health care. With the new support program, these demonstration projects will be brought into PCNs.
Learn more about the PCN Nurse Practitioner Support program (PDF, 531 KB)
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.
Community Health Centres serve vulnerable communities such as immigrants and refugees, Indigenous, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirited (LGBTQ2S), the homeless and culturally appropriate healthcare services through a collaborative team approach.
Community Health Centres emphasize prevention, wellness, social determinants of health, health equity, and community governance and leadership.
- Learn more about Community Health Centres
Family Care Clinics
Alberta Health Services also owns and operates three Family Care Clinics that provide individual and family-focused primary health care services to meet the health needs of the community.
- Learn more about the Family Care Clinics
To assist with primary health care planning, community profile reports have been written to provide a broad range of demographic, socio-economic, and population health statistics considered relevant to primary health care for communities across the province.
Alberta Health Services divides the province into 5 large health service zones. These zones are subdivided into 132 smaller geographic areas called local geographic areas (LGAs).
Each profile offers an overview of the current health status of the residents in the LGA, indicators of the area’s current and future health needs, and evidence as to which quality services are needed on a timely and efficient basis to address the area’s needs.
Primary health care strategy
The Primary Health Care Strategy and Evaluation Framework is Alberta’s plan to improve primary health care delivery in Alberta.
Read the 2014 Primary Health Care Strategy