What is the FOCUS on Primary Healthcare website?

FOCUS stands for “Fostering Open Conversations that Unleash Solutions”. This website is one area of the FOCUS on Healthcare website. FOCUS on Primary Healthcare gives a snapshot of what Albertans experience in their care by family doctors and other healthcare providers in their communities, so that providers, decision-makers, and the public can have informed conversations to make improvements in this area of healthcare.

Does the HQCA provide information about other healthcare settings?

Yes, please visit the FOCUS on Healthcare page to see what areas of healthcare the HQCA is currently reporting on and what areas will be coming in the future. The HQCA also provides information about other healthcare settings through surveys, studies, and reviews which are available on the main HQCA website www.hqca.ca

How often is the information on the FOCUS on Primary Healthcare website updated?

This information is updated annually.

What is primary healthcare?

Primary healthcare is the first place people go:

  • For healthcare or wellness advice and programs,
  • For treatment of a health issue or minor injury, or
  • To have a health condition diagnosed and managed.


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.

Those services may include a visit to your family doctor, a consultation from a nurse practitioner, advice from a pharmacist or an appointment with a dietitian or therapist. Primary health care includes a focus on wellness, and connecting people with social supports that impact their health status, such as housing or parental support.

What is a primary care network (PCN)?

Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are groups of doctors working together with teams of healthcare professionals (for example, nurses, dietitians, and pharmacists to meet the primary healthcare needs of patients in their communities. PCNs were designed to strengthen family doctor clinics by providing referral services, programs and information to help patients manage their health. Their programs can include after-hours medical access, clinics and workshops.

Approximately 80 per cent of primary care physicians are registered in a PCN.

Primary care networks were started in Alberta in 2003. Alberta now has 41 PCNs involving more than 3,800 physicians and over 1,000 health care providers.

Here is another video about primary care networks.

Which PCN is my family doctor a part of?

You can use the Primary Care Networks Program Management Office tool to find out what PCN your family doctor belongs to. Select the tab ‘Find a Doctor’ and type in your family doctor’s name. Please be aware that not all doctors belong to a PCN.

What is a patient’s medical home?

The Patient’s Medical Home (PMH) is the place patients feel most comfortable to discuss their personal and family health concerns. It usually includes the patient’s family doctor and other healthcare team members the doctor works with, including nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists and others to provide the care the patient needs. They are usually located within the same clinic; if they work in different sites, they share information to ensure a smooth care experience for their patients.

What is a clinic medical record?

This is the record a clinic uses to capture a patient’s medical history and care. This can include notes made by the family doctor or other healthcare professionals, test results, x-rays, etc. Most clinics now use an electronic record, which makes it easy to share information. Some clinics still use a paper record.

What is continuity and why is it important to primary healthcare?

Continuity of care reflects the patient’s experience of care over time as consistent, connected and coordinated.

There are three aspects of continuity that work together:
Relationship – when the patient sees the same family doctor or team of healthcare providers consistently over time, a mutual bond of trust and respect is formed
Information – knowledge about a patient’s medical condition, values, needs and wants is available to all team members
Management – the patient’s care is coordinated between all healthcare team members and between all the different places where care is provided.

When patients move around the healthcare system, it is very important that all three of these types of continuity are maintained. This is especially important in primary healthcare because a goal of Alberta’s health system is for primary healthcare to be the patient’s medical home (see “Patient’s Medical Home” definition above). So, the family doctor or primary healthcare clinic will likely be the one responsible for maintaining continuity with a patient.

Will the HQCA be adding more measures to FOCUS on Primary Healthcare in the future?

FOCUS on Primary Healthcare is intended to start conversations about important aspects of primary healthcare. In deciding whether to add new measures, we work with our stakeholders to identify new topics of interest and what measures make sense to start a conversation about that topic. We look at whether the data is available to create the new measures, and consider if the measure can be presented in a way that starts a productive conversation.

Who will be acting on the information in this website? How will the information lead to actual improvements in the quality of care?

Healthcare improvement is a complex process that involves people at all levels of the healthcare system. Many kinds of information are used to identify where improvements are needed, decide where to focus our improvement efforts, select solutions that might work, and later to find out if the change was an improvement. The measures on this website are only one source of information that can be used to identify where improvements are needed. Improvements in the quality of care that patients experience are typically at the level of the clinic they visit regularly. However the Primary Care Network (PCN) that the clinic belongs to often supports their member clinics in making priority changes. The leaders and managers of the PCNs are the ones who will be most likely to act on information in this website. It is only one piece of information that they will use to target their improvement efforts.