This spring, Bow Valley Primary Care Network (PCN) polled 650 patients with questions on awareness of the PCN, quality of care received at their most recent appointment and overall satisfaction with the services and support provided. With a 31 per cent response rate to the survey, online or by mail, the 17 questions gave valuable insight into PCN inter-professional team services from the patient’s perspective. Patients were asked to rate their experiences with PCN health professionals in one-on-one consultation appointments or through signature programs such as the Best Weight, Chronic Pain, and Active Living Exercise Programs.
PCN services used most were appointments with PCN nurses who work in member clinics, for example, in compiling complex care plans, smoking cessation and birth control counselling. Consultations with the PCN registered dietitians, pharmacist and active living consultants and participation in the Active Living Exercise Program were also noted as among services most frequently used by respondents. The survey focused on PCN staff and programs, but did not cover services provided directly by family or specialist physicians.
Of the Bow Valley respondents 66 per cent were female and 34 per cent were male, with an age split of 40 per cent under age 59 and 60 per cent being 60 years and older – both of which are representative of our referred patient population.
Provincially there has been a desire to increase the awareness of PCNs and their role in healthcare. Local PCN efforts in raising understanding of our role and work have included signage in clinics, staff introducing themselves as PCN team members and HUTV broadcasts in primary care clinics. This outreach has prompted an increase in awareness from 61 per cent in 2014-15 to 73 per cent this year. Bow Valley PCN efforts helped deliver the message that the PCN is part of the public healthcare system, funded by Alberta Health. As well, recognition that the patient’s family doctor is a physician member of Bow Valley PCN grew from 56 per cent to 73 per cent year over year.
PCN nurses are based in Bow Valley primary care clinics, while our health professionals such as dietitians, a behavioural change specialist, active living consultants, pharmacist and lactation consultant work primarily at the PCN’s central office in Canmore and our satellite office in Banff. Ninety-one percent of patients who responded to the survey indicated that they were ‘satisfied or very satisfied’ with the amount of time it took to see a PCN team member.
Patients were asked about their experiences with PCN team members – were PCN inter-professional team members polite, professional and respectful of privacy and confidentiality? The rating on professionalism increased to almost 100 per cent of patients being ‘satisfied or very satisfied’, up from 81 per cent in the previous survey, with one respondent commenting, “I am very appreciative of the programs, services and professionalism of all the staff involved.”
Questions covering quality of care comprised a significant portion of the survey, encouraging respondents to rate PCN inter-professional team members, based on the patient’s most recent appointment interaction. Questions addressed the PCN team member’s knowledge about the patient’s condition and if they felt the PCN staff member supported them in improving their health or quality of life. Ninety-seven percent answered ‘Agree’ or ‘Strongly Agree’ to the question ‘I feel that the PCN staff member is knowledgeable regarding my health condition(s)’. As one respondent observed, “… [PCN staff member] was professional, knowledgeable about the details of my diagnosis and helpful.”
Eighty-eight percent of patients said that they had received care that helped them improve their health or quality of life. One patient commented “[I am] more aware of what I eat and how much [and] because of PCN support I find it easier to take time to walk.” Ninety seven per cent said they would recommend PCN services to others. Bow Valley PCN’s Active Living Consultant feels this is a significant indirect measure of appointment satisfaction. “If a patient is willing to recommend the service to a friend or family member, this shows that they got something useful out of the interaction and think that their friend or family member could also benefit from using PCN services.”
Among the more than forty PCNs across Alberta, Bow Valley PCN has been one of the first to introduce patient satisfaction surveys such as this. Other PCNs have recently been rolling out similar questionnaires in several different formats. Provincially the PCN is working on standardization of patient experience feedback but until then, the Bow Valley PCN Executive Director states, “We plan to utilize the survey we used the past two years as it provides our staff with feedback they require. We are happy that patients are pleased with the wait times to access our services and we continue to be motivated to partner with physician members and clinics to support and improve the health of local residents. Our Joint Governance Committee, made up of Alberta Health Service leaders and representatives of the physician members, is very proud of our staff and appreciative of their dedication to patients”
Marilyn Duncan-Webb July 2016