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Not Your Average PUPPY: Research to Support Better Primary Care During a Pandemic

Posted by Nancy Rogers on November 17, 2020 in News
DFM_Emily Marshall prof
DFM_Emily Marshall prof

If you ask a Canadian about our health care system, you'll likely get an opinion—and a story.

"Countless surveys have shown that Canadians value our universal health care system and that they see it as a public good, as something we should all care about," explains Dr. Emily Gard Marshall, an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Dalhousie University. "But that doesn't mean it's perfect exactly as it is. We also recognize that there are challenges, there are differences across provinces and territories, and there are things that we would like to improve."

She notes, for example, that many Canadians know someone who does not have access to a family practice, where they'd like to have a family physician or nurse practitioner to follow their care. The issue has become so widespread that seven provinces have instituted centralized wait-lists for people who are "unattached", a term used to describe patients without regular primary care providers. The provinces use different strategies to manage those wait-lists—for everything from prioritizing patients based on greatest need to offering financial incentives to care providers—but it's not clear which of those approaches is most effective.

"That's where research comes in," says Dr. Marshall. "We need research evidence to make sure that the decisions we make about the health care system are the best ones. The system isn't static. We can change it. But there's a lot to consider as we try to make all these provincial systems and levels of care as effective as possible, so the research helps us figure out what the best mix of approaches could be."  

Earlier this year, Dr. Marshall was set to tackle some of the much needed research on those primary care wait-lists. But then—as was the case with so many things in our lives—the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and changed everything.

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