Connecting people with a family physician

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

By Deidre Taylor

For some citizens living in the Capital Health district, the search for a family physician can be difficult. That’s why Primary Health Care and the District Department of Family Practice created the Primary Health Care Connections initiative. 

Primary Health Care Connections links patients who visit any of the three urban emergency departments (Cobequid Community Health Centre, Dartmouth General and Halifax Infirmary) with an appropriate family physician or collaborative team practice. Information about this initiative is provided to patients during registration at the emergency department if they indicate they do not have a family physician. 

One person who had been depending on the Dartmouth General emergency department for her care described the search for a family physician as “traumatic.” Having a family physician has eliminated my need to go to emergency for the little things,” she said.

Each month, Primary Health Care Connections’ part-time co-ordinator, Patty Weld Viscount, receives more than 60 calls from people looking for a family physician and is able to assist the majority in finding one in about a week’s time. Last year, she assisted 845 citizens.

“I first ask them a few questions to determine their level of health need,” said Weld Viscount. “I redirect callers with lower health needs, like a parent with a young family looking for routine care, to contact family practices in their community that are advertising for new patients. If the caller has complex health needs, such as a chronic condition, I complete a medical history form with them and then fax it to the accepting family physician.”

Primary Health Care Connections maintains a list of family practices that can be contacted to accept these higher-needs patients. Many family physicians are willing to take a few new patients into their practice, and that’s where Primary Health Care Connections becomes an invaluable resource. Weld Viscount is able to connect with family physicians that would be a good fit for the patient and can give them a snapshot of the prospective patient’s health. This helps create a smooth transition for the accepting family physician and the new patient.

“Feedback from the patients and the family practices on this initiative has been very positive,” says Weld Viscount. “The relief I hear on the other end of the phone when I call to tell them that I’ve found a family physician for them is rewarding. I know we are doing the right thing by helping these people get access to the care they need.”

Information about how to contact Primary Heath Care Connections is available on the Find a Family Practice page.

Visit Primary Health Care Connections to learn more.