Announcement: Primary Care Clinics Project improves patient access & experience

Announcement: Primary Care Clinics Project improves patient access & experience


Team: Events, Training & News
Posted on April 10, 2014

Announcement: Primary Care Clinics Project improves patient access & experience

Team: Events, Training & News

Date: This is not a timed event.


Primary Care Clinics Project improves patient access, experience

Are you or someone you know trying to find a family doctor?

You’re not alone. A Health Council of Canada report released in 2013 found that between 3%-15% of Canadians, depending on which province they live in, don’t have a family doctor. 

Manitoba is no exception; patients struggle to find family doctors here, too. However, access to a family doctor is only one aspect of a larger issue- overall access to primary care services and improving the patient experience in healthcare.

The Winnipeg Health Region is taking a hands-on approach to address these gaps. To support a previously-established Provincial Primary Care Renewal Strategy, the Region has embarked on a comprehensive process review that aims to maximize efficiency in WRHA primary care clinics (e.g. Access Centres) and to implement improvements aimed at increasing productivity and sustaining quality across these sites. The review is closely linked to the provincial government’s commitment that “all Manitobans will have access to a family doctor by 2015.”

To meet these ambitious targets, the Region turned to the Project Management Office (PMO) – housed at the George and Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation – and the WRHA’s Chronic Disease Collaborative team. The joint team developed and implemented a Primary Care Clinics Project, focused on standardizing and streamlining a primary care model with a focus on patient flow. The project goals were to:

  • Enhance patient access
  • Develop and implement integrated operational standards across WRHA directly operated Primary Care Clinics
  • Develop recommendations that will inform primary care service targets

The first stage of the project was an assessment of the primary care clinics across the region. It quickly became evident that primary care clinics were not homogenous; they each dealt with unique challenges (for example, different staffing levels or different rates of optimization of the Electronic Medical Record). In light of these differences, immediately implementing a standardized operating model was not feasible.

Subsequently, a consensus decision was made to select an approach where support was provided to clinics in identifying and selecting specific site priorities for improvement. Issues identified ultimately impacted elements such as volume of patients seen, overall process flow, staff performance and satisfaction. Each clinic focused on its specifically identified initiatives and developed best practices to address the issue. The best practices were then shared at the regional level. The spread of best practices gradually aligned clinics towards standardized models of operation.

Over the course of 16 months, a total of 14 individual improvement initiatives were undertaken by both the primary care clinics and the family medicine/primary care program. Additionally, the Chronic Disease Collaborative Team offered crucial training in collaborative practice while the Project Management Office team offered training in Lean and Six Sigma techniques to primary care facilities (direct operations and funded agencies), across the WRHA. Lean (which focuses on identifying and eliminating waste) and Six Sigma (which focuses on reducing defects and process performance variation) are historically found in the manufacturing industry; however they have been adapted for application in healthcare settings.

The project also produced a series of recommendations:

  • Setting tangible targets to improve provider productivity
  • Ongoing staff training
  • Ongoing Leadership training and  development
  • Innovative communication tools to promote sharing of best practices
  • Increased inter-professional collaboration to promote comprehensive service delivery to patients.
  • Ongoing efforts to further explore issues impacting productivity such as patient population characteristics and complexity of care.

The Primary Care Clinics Project has contributed significantly to the overall Primary Care Renewal Strategy and ongoing work will ensure long term sustainability. To learn more about this or other initiatives from the Project Management Office please click here. 


Originally published in Inspire! Magazine on April 9, 2014.