What's covered

Primary health care is the system of health care services that provide care at the first point of contact with the health system, and typically include primary care, public health, teletriage, emergency medical services, and community health services such as home care. Primary health care services are usually community based and are offered outside traditional acute and specialized health services. Primary health care focuses on health promotion, disease and injury prevention, care and management of health. Internationally, primary health care is recognized as an approach to promote more equitable health and human development. Health systems based on a strong orientation towards primary health care have better and more equitable outcomes, are more efficient, have lower health care costs, and achieve higher client satisfaction.

Within the primary health care system, primary care services focus on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management of common illnesses. Although primary care does involve health promotion and disease and injury prevention for individual clients and their families, it focuses primarily on the diagnosis, curing and management of common health illnesses in individual clients. Primary care may be delivered in a family practice, clinic, and hospital or in the community. It can be delivered by one practitioner or a group, team, or network of primary care providers and can be co-located, or delivered in a number of sites. Following a review of national and international literature and organizations including the World Health Organization, HSO defines primary care:

“As part of the broader primary health care framework, primary care is a service at the entry to the health care system that addresses diagnosis, ongoing treatment and management of health conditions as well as health promotion, disease and injury prevention, and referral to health care specialists.”

The Primary Care standards contain the following subsections:

  • Investing in Primary Care Services
  • Having the Right People
  • Providing Access to Primary Care
  • Delivering and Coordinating Care Across the Life Cycle
  • Maintaining Accessible and Clinical Information Systems
  • Having a Positive Impact on Outcomes

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