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Access to Family Physicians

Primary care is the first point of contact that you have with the health system – the point where you receive care for most of your everyday health needs. For most Islanders, primary care is provided in physician offices and health centres by a family physician or by a team of nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians and other health professionals working together. It includes the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of various health conditions, the promotion of wellness and the management, and prevention of chronic health conditions such as diabetes. It also includes referrals to specialists and diagnostic services such as laboratory tests or x-rays.

Family physicians can have multiple work sites and perform roles outside of their usual family practice clinic work. Some examples of additional work that family physicians perform are:  hospital duties, coverage in emergency departments, administrative work (Department Heads, Medical Directors), nursing home visits, participation on health committees and work with professional organizations (Canadian Medical Society, Medical Society of PEI, College of Family Physicians). These additional duties can impact the time available in the office.

What is the wait time to access a family physician?
The average wait time for an appointment with a family physician is:

Primary Care Network
Average Wait Time
West Prince* 9 days 2 to 16 days
East Prince 20 days 3 to 43 days
Queens West 6 days 0 to 20 days
Queens East* 6 days 0 to 20 days
Kings 18 days 1 to 36 days
Provincial 14 days 0 to 43 days
* Fewer than 5 physicians reporting

How is the wait time measured?
The wait time is measured using the third next routine available appointment (TNAA) as the measure. This has been developed, based on the Institute of Health Information (IHI) methodology. It provides criteria for measurement, a standardized definition and the ability to conduct national and international comparisons.

The "third next available" appointment is used rather than the "next available" appointment since it is a more sensitive reflection of true appointment availability. For example, an appointment may be open at the time of a request because of a cancellation or other unexpected event.

The TNAA is collected in a standardized format on a monthly basis. The administrative assistant counts out to the third next routine available appointment slot and submits that date as the wait time. The Health Information Specialist at Health PEI calculates the TNAA by subtracting the TNAA date from the date collected.   

Which physicians submit TNAA data?
Family Physicians submit TNAA data on a volunteer basis. Family health centres within the primary care networks and several doctors who have independent practices submit data.

All family physicians working on PEI are welcome to submit their wait time data.

What influences a wait time?
Your wait time may be influenced by:

  • clinic/practice options (e.g. collaborative practices in which you may be offered the choice of seeing another provider);
  • additional professional commitments outside of clinic time (e.g. ER coverage);
  • physician/staff vacation/time-off;
  • unexpected emergencies;
  • holidays;
  • storm days; or
  • continuing education time.

What is a Primary Care Network?
Each of the five networks is a defined geographic area of the province within which a team of health care providers deliver and coordinate health services. Each network has a similar population size and has access to similar services and staff resources to ensure all Islanders have equitable access to primary health care services.

Through collaboration and coordination between your family physician and the Primary Care Network team, you’ll receive the right care, from the right professional, at the right time. You, your family physician and the network team become partners to better manage your health.

To learn more about Primary Care Networks, visit Health Centres offer Primary Care.

What is the wait time data?
* These estimates are based on data collected between January and March 2016 from voluntary submission of individual physician wait times to the third next available routine appointments. There may be many family physicians in PEI not reporting that may have same day or next day access.
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