With hundreds of thousands of British Columbians still without a family physician, the BC government has expanded the online registry that aims to connect patients with available doctors and nurse practitioners.
The Health Connect Registry was a pilot program accessible only to patients in select communities. As of July 1, however, the waitlist has opened to all British Columbians in need of a primary care provider, Health Minister Adrian Dix said Wednesday.
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“Once you’re on the Health Connect Registry and a primary care provider is available, a coordinator will contact you and you’ll be able to meet with the primary care provider, and both of you can decide if this pairing is the right fit ,” he said.
“If not, it’s not a problem. You’ll be placed back on the registry and suffer no loss of place or position and be paired with a different provider.”
New registrants on the waitlist will begin to get calls this summer. Those already in the registry do not need to take any action, Dix added.
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The health minister said the province is also launching two new registries.
The first will allow individual family physicians and nurse practitioners to manage their patient lists and information, and identify when they can accept new patients. The second will allow clinic medical directors and staff to provide updated information about their clinics.
“With the three registries, we’ll have a comprehensive list of who is looking for a primary care provider, who already has one and which providers and clinics can accept new patients,” Dix said. “It is a crucial step forward.”
Beginning in November, he added, the province will be reporting quarterly on its progress in adding new nurses and doctors, and on connections made through the Health Connect Registry.
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Sukhwant Jassar, a nurse practitioner and board member of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of British Columbia, said Wednesday’s announcement will result in “more equitable and timely services” for British Columbians, ensuring a patient’s needs align with a provider’s ability to manage them.
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Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, former president of Doctors of BC, said the expanded registry is among several key measures taken in the past year that aim to make longitudinal family practice more sustainable for physicians.
“The registry will make it easier and faster for new, returning family doctors to build their practices and to get back to doing what they love to do — to provide ongoing care, quality care, for their patients based within a relationship of trust,” she said.
“Results won’t happen overnight for everyone but we are moving in the right direction.”
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In a previous statement to Global News, the ministry said the Health Connect Registry initially had a “soft launch” in 2021 with no public advertisement, in order to collect proof that the system worked and was scalable. It was restricted first to residents of Richmond, then opened up to residents of the Sunshine Coast.
The province’s new payment structure for family physicians took effect in February.
Rather than the historic fee-for-service model, it allows doctors to opt-in to a billing system that accounts for the amount of time spent with a patient, the number of patients seen in a day, and the total number of patients supported by a doctor’s practice.
Nearly 3,300 family physicians have signed onto the new system, while a new-to-practice incentive program has another 156 new family physicians registered, according to the Ministry of Health.
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