Health Minister Adrian Dix hopes that more British Columbians will receive primary care through an expanded registry system, but acknowledged that it may take some time before the full effects of the new system are known.
Dix announced Wednesday (July 5) that the expanded Health Connect Registry has been ready to accept applications since July 1.
“Now people and families in every part of our province can register to find a primary care provider in their community,” he said. “They can register themselves, for their families or other people.”
The site — which had started as a pilot project in some communities — essentially functions like a dating site by matching individuals without primary care with physicians or nurse practitioners.
“Once you’re on the health connect registry and a primary care provider is available, a coordinator contacts you and you’ll be able to meet with the primary care provider and both of you can decide with if this pairing is the right fit,” he said.
If not, individuals go back into the registry without losing their spots, Dix said, adding that this form of medical match-making will start this summer with province hiring additional coordinators to help connect patients with primary care providers.
The registry is what he called the “patient-facing side” of the government’s plan to strengthen primary care.
“Between the new doctors who signed up with our new-to-practice incentive program, doctors who are joining the new payment model, as well as new nurse practitioners and the many more to come, we are ensuring people throughout the province can connect with those primary-care providers and others as medical professionals enter family practice and build their patient panel.”
But it is not clear yet how many people will end up benefiting.
Dix said the 2021 Canadian Community Health Survey pegged the number of British Columbians without a family doctor in B.C. at 980,000, adding that that number has since dropped by 85,000. But Dix side-stepped repeated questions about how many more people will receive primary care.
“I don’t make predictions about x-results or y-results,” he said. “I know that we have some improvement in the past year in the Canadian Community Healthy Survey. We also know that there are a lot of people, who need a family doctor, who need a nurse practitioner, who need primary care. So we are building that out and you see the results of that.”
He said the expansion of the registry across the province gives government the means to measure progress.
“So we need to make keep making progress and I think we will,” he said. “We will report on that every three months (starting Nov. 30).”
Dix also used the occasion to update the public on earlier announced initiatives, including the new payment model for primary physicians that replaced the previous fee-for-service model. According to ministry information, the new system has attracted 3,300 family doctors while a new-to-practice incentive program has attracted 156 new family doctors.