New organisations were created with a mandate to lead the establishment of Local Health Networks with several partners such as primary healthcare organisations.
Various strategies were put in place to improve collaboration across and between primary healthcare organisations working in communities; for example, the implementation of new models of primary healthcare, improving access to specialists and diagnostic tests for family physicians, improving services for chronic disease in the community and helping unattached patients to find a family physician.
The planning and organisation of health services became more focused on the population of a local territory. This new mandate was based on a ‘population-based responsibility’.
Approximately 10 years have passed since the implementation of this large-scale redesign of the healthcare system in Québec, and many changes are still required.
Why this matters to us
‘Integrated care’ is a buzzword when it comes to improving healthcare services. There is a consensus among researchers, decision-makers and clinicians that services should be developed based on a network of integrated care. There are different ways to achieve this goal. The province of Québec used legislation to formally mandate healthcare organisations to function within newly created and geographically delimited Local Health Networks. Some lessons can be learned from this experiment in the province of Québec.
Background In 2004, the Québec government implemented an important reform of the healthcare system. The reform was based on the creation of new organisations called Health Services and Social Centres (HSSC), which were formed by merging several healthcare organisations. Upon their creation, each HSSC received the legal mandate to establish and lead a Local Health Network (LHN) with different partners within their territory. This mandate promotes a ‘population-based approach’ based to the responsibility for the population of a local territory.
Objective The aim of this paper is to illustrate and discuss how primary healthcare organisations (PHC) are involved in mandated LHNs in Québec. For illustration, we describe four examples that facilitate a better understanding of these integrated relationships.
Results The development of the LHNs and the different collaboration relationships are described through four examples: (1) improving PHC services within the LHN – an example of new PHC models; (2) improving access to specialists and diagnostic tests for family physicians working in the community – an example of centralised access to specialists services; (3) improving chronic-disease-related services for the population of the LHN – an example of a Diabetes Centre; and (4) improving access to family physicians for the population of the LHN – an example of the centralised waiting list for unattached patients.
Conclusion From these examples, we can see that the implementation of large-scale reform involves incorporating actors at all levels in the system, and facilitates collaboration between healthcare organisations, family physicians and the community. These examples suggest that the reform provided room for multiple innovations. The planning and organisation of health services became more focused on the population of a local territory. The LHN allows a territorial vision of these planning and organisational processes to develop. LHN also seems a valuable lever when all the stakeholders are involved and when the different organisations serve the community by providing acute care and chronic care, while taking into account the social, medical and nursing fields.