December 19, 2013, President's Letter

December 19, 2013

Dr. Allan S. Garbutt, President, AMA

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Dear Member:

In this letter:

  • HQCA has released a study that highlights failure of continuity in the system and the sometimes tragic results.
  • The AMA will participate in implementing recommendations; opportunities to do so flow from the AMA Agreement.

Today the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) released its report: Continuity of Patient Care Study. The study was conducted under the HQCA’s mandate to promote and improve patient safety and health service quality on a province-wide basis.

Many of you will have heard the media coverage already. In essence, the focus is the painful experience of one patient and his family as he passed through multiple tiers in Alberta’s health system.

The findings in this report illustrate what physicians already know: that the health care system too often fails to provide continuity and support for the vulnerable, sometimes with tragic results.

I admire and respect this Alberta family for their courage in bringing the story forward in a way that can help make things better for others who follow. I also want to recognize the HQCA for a constructive approach that looks to fix the system, rather than seeking to fix the blame.

The Alberta Medical Association (AMA) is mentioned in two recommendations within the report. We are being asked to work with the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta, Alberta Health Services, Health Link and others in several areas to explore ways to better support patients with time-sensitive health conditions. We will carefully review the complete study report and are fully prepared to work with others to implement the recommendations.

I am optimistic that there will be opportunities for improvement flowing from the AMA’s ongoing work with the government to evolve primary care networks (under the Primary Medical Care/Primary Care Networks Consultation Agreement). There are further possibilities in linking primary care more effectively with Strategic Clinical Networks. The Provincial Electronic Medical Record Strategy Consultation Agreement will be pivotal to help ensure that we have the information technology infrastructure that is essential if we are to deliver patient-centered, continuity-focused care.

The end result of all this work should create a health care environment in which all the components and providers work together to provide continuity of care, rather than a fragmented sequence of care episodes. The patient must be supported and provided with guidance throughout the continuum of care. We can, however, only achieve this by involving all members of the health care team – including our patients themselves.

I will write to you again soon with the latest news arising from implementation of the AMA Agreement. Your comments and suggestions are welcome! Email or comment below.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours all the best of the holiday season. Be well at play or at work in the days ahead, and I look forward to our efforts together in 2014.


Allan S. Garbutt, PhD, MD, CCFP

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