Accountability by Design: Moving Primary Care Reform Ahead in Alberta


  • Shannon M. Spenceley University of Lethbridge
  • Cheryl Andres Alberta Health Services
  • Janet Lapins Alberta Health Services
  • Robert Wedel Chinook Primary Care Network
  • Tobias Gelber Chinook Primary Care Network
  • Lisa Halma Alberta Health Services



Health-care reform is perennially popular in Alberta, but reality doesn’t match the rhetoric. Government has invested more than $700 million in Primary Care Networks — with little beyond anecdotal evidence of the value achieved with this investment. As the province redirects primary care to Family Care Clinics, the authors assert that simply tinkering with one part of the system is not the answer: health care must change on a system-wide basis. Drawing on the experiences of frontline staff and a rich body of literature, the authors present their vision for integrated team-based primary care, designed to be accountable to meet the needs of populations. This will require governance that makes primary care the hub of the system, and brings together government and health-services leadership to support the integration of primary and specialty care. There are shared accountabilities for achieving primary care that exhibits the attributes of high performing primary care systems, and these exist at multiple levels, from individuals seeking primary care, up to and including government. The authors make these accountabilities explicit, and outline strategies to secure their achievement that include system redesign, service delivery redesign and payment reform. All of this demands whole-system reform focused on primary care, and it won’t be easy. There are plenty of vested interests at stake, and a truly transformative vision requires buy-in at every level. However, Alberta’s rapidly growing and aging population makes it more urgent than ever to realize such a vision. This paper offers guidelines to spark the fresh thinking required.






Research Papers