New tool peeks into St. Albert’s health care

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A new tool will help residents compare primary health care across the province.

The Health Quality Council of Alberta has launched a new project, FOCUS on Primary Healthcare.

“This move to primary community-based care, it’s really the foundation of the health care system,” said Charlene McBrien-Morrison, executive director for the organization.

The tool will be updated annually, providing a bigger picture on the healthcare system in Alberta. The current data on the site is from 2017.

HQCA started FOCUS last year, when it began tracking information on emergency departments. That tool showed St. Albert has some of the longest wait times for urgent and non-urgent visits than any other medium-sized urban hospital in Alberta.

The city has one of the highest rates of overall patient care, however, which shows wait times are not necessarily connected to level of patient satisfaction.

From the new FOCUS tool, the HQCA wants patients, doctors and policy makers to see where holes exist in primary health care. It will also show where strengths lie.

McBrien-Morrison hopes primary care networks will learn from each other, working to provide better care. The tool could also help in forming future health policy.

According to the new tool, St. Albert has the second-highest number of patients that see the same family doctors among other primary care networks in the Edmonton zone. Last year, 69 per cent of patients kept it consistent.

Leduc-Beaumont-Devon Primary Care Networks came in first place, with 70 per cent of residents consistently seeing the same family doctor.

Alberta Heartland came in third place, with 69 per cent of patients regularly going to the same doctor.

When it comes to consistency of using the same clinic, St. Albert ranked third at 78 per cent of patients.

Leduc-Beaumont-Devon Primary Care Networks scored first place again, with 83 per cent of patients visiting the same primary care clinic.

Dr. Marielle Pratt, family doctor in St. Albert, said she was pleased to see St. Albert ranked so high. The primary care network was matched against nine other networks and one with no affiliation in the Edmonton zone.

“I’m glad that St. Albert is doing so well,” she said. “It just means that we have actually pretty good access to care here, and that people can get in when they need to.”

Next year, the tool will add another category: patient experience.

Residents will soon get insight into how well doctors listened to patients, family doctor’s explanations, doctor showing respect and appointment length, to name a few.

The results will be at a provincial level, rather than at a zone level.

To see the new tool, check out http://focus.hqca.ca/primaryhealthcare/.

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.