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The Unmet Needs of Patients and Carers within Community Based Primary Health Care

Introduction: Community Based Primary Health Care (CBPHC) is positioned as the foundation of integrated health systems, intended to support broader goals of population health and health system sustainability. CBPHC moves beyond traditional primary care (a physician visit) to team based care that spans organizational boundaries (such as primary care clinics + community care services). At the core of CBPHC are patients and their informal carers (family and friends) who can inform ongoing reforms in this sector by sharing their experience, particularly in areas that require improvement. The objective of this paper is to share the unmet needs of patients and caregivers within CBPHC. Methods: This study is part of a broader programme of research called, implementing integrated care for older adults with complex health needs (iCOACH). Semi-structured interviews are being conducted with older patients with complex care needs and with unpaid, informal carers across multiple CBPHC sites in Canada (Ontario and Quebec) and New Zealand. Interviews captured the roles, characteristics and needs of patients and carers, and were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Interviews were reviewed by multiple team members and a consensus codebook was created. The code "unmet need" was extracted from the patient and carer transcripts, and analyzed for core themes using an inductive approach. Results: Unmet needs culminated into three broad themes across patient and carer interviews: Accessing Care; Quality of Care; and Missing Care. Many patients accessed care within CBPHC, but the model itself tended to be spread across multiple settings and providers. Patients and carers also required access to services that were outside the CBPHC model. Challenges arose due to lack of transportation, out-of-pocket expenses, limited availability of assistive devices to support mobility, and long wait times. Quality of care and relationships were compromised if there was a language barrier, and when services were misaligned with the preferences of patients and carers. Components of care were often missing, such as respite care for carers, supports for instrumental activities of daily living (e.g., home maintenance and transportation), and supports to reduce social isolation. Conclusions: Due to the complex health and social needs of patients and carers, they often require access to multiple services and providers who are seldom situated under the same roof. Finding ways to integrate across organizational boundaries may reduce areas of unmet need. Furthermore greater attention to the social determinants of health within CBPHC may create a more holistic experience for patients and carers. Lessons Learned: CBPHC is intended to deliver holistic integrated care but when situated within a fragmented health care system, challenges for patients and carers persist. Limitations: Further comparisons need to be made between the unmet needs between patients and caregivers in Canada and New Zealand. Suggestions for future research: Next steps will include the development of a framework that describes the policy and organizational context, and provider configurations in each of the study jurisdictions. How these factors relate to different patient and carer needs and experiences, including areas of unmet need, will be explored to inform the development of person centered CBPHC models. 

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Ubiquity Press
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International Journal of Integrated Care
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