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Family Health Teams -- Your Access To Primary Health Care

Archived Backgrounder

Family Health Teams -- Your Access To Primary Health Care

Office of the Premier

What is Primary Health Care?

Primary health care refers to the patient's first point of contact with a doctor or a health care team. Patients access primary health care in a variety of ways -- through their family doctor, at walk-in clinics and by calling the Telephone Health Advisory Service (THAS) to speak with a registered nurse.

Sometimes, because they cannot access a family doctor when they need one, patients receive primary health care in other, less convenient settings, such as the Emergency Department at their local hospital. Primary health care includes (but is not limited to): assessing the physical or mental condition of an individual and the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of any disease, disorder or dysfunction. The health care providers in Family Health Teams (FHTs) will emphasize education and disease prevention, empowering individuals to take an active role in their own health care.

That sounds like a lot. The health care system is overloaded, how is my doctor going to have time to do all these things for me?

True primary health care covers a lot and is important. Studies show that countries that have strong primary health care systems have healthier populations and are able to use their precious health care resources more efficiently. Doctors in Ontario have been doing a great job for their patients over the years in all of the areas of primary health care. Now, Family Health Teams will build on this foundation by bringing professionals together to organize health care in new ways and to complement each other's skills.

What is the Role of Family Health Teams (FHTs) in primary health care?

A Family Health Team is an approach to primary health care that brings together different health care providers to coordinate the highest possible quality of health care for you -- the patient. Designed to give doctors support from other complementary professionals, most Family Health Teams will consist of doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and other health care professionals who work collaboratively, each utilizing their skills so that you receive the very best health care, when you need it, as close to home as possible.

You just mentioned different kinds of health care providers delivering primary health care in a Family Health Team, who, will I be dealing with?

Diverse populations in Ontario mean that there are different needs for different communities. As a result, the composition of a Family Health Team will be different from place to place. However, Family Health Teams will have core health care professionals across the province, including doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses.

How will Family Health Teams improve the primary health care I receive?

Let's break this down a little bit more. Family Health Teams are patient-centered and you will have access to a number of primary health care services from a variety of team members, including your family doctor.

For example:

  • Your family doctor will continue to see you during regular office hours
  • You will have access to other health care professionals within that Family Health Team, such as nurse practitioners, nurses, dieticians and pharmacists
  • You will have access to a Family Health Team doctor during extended evening and weekend hours for urgent problems
  • If you see another doctor in your Family Health Team for treatment, your own doctor will receive documentation about the nature of your problem so that he or she will always be up-to-date about your medical condition
  • If you need assistance after hours, you will be able to call the FHT Telephone Health Advisory Service (THAS) where a registered nurse will provide advice about your urgent health care concerns
  • With your permission, your doctor will receive a written summary of your call the next day, so that your doctor is informed of the nature of the problem and the advice you received
  • Family Health Teams will be able to take advantage of specially funded information technology to organize your health information and share it securely with other health professionals
  • Family Health Teams will be organized to offer you timely access to high quality primary health care. Research shows that this access results in you being healthier, longer.



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