Background: Performance reporting in primary health care in Canada is challenging because of the dearth of concise and synthesized information. The paucity of information occurs, in part, because the majority of primary health care in Canada is delivered through a multitude of privately owned small businesses with no mechanism or incentives to provide information about their performance. The purpose of this paper is to report the methods used to recruit family physicians and their patients across 10 provinces to provide self-reported information about primary care and how this information could be used in recruitment and data collection for future large scale pan-Canadian and other cross-country studies.
Methods: Canada participated in an international large scale study-the QUALICO-PC (Quality and Costs of Primary Care) study. A set of four surveys, designed to collect in-depth information regarding primary care activities was collected from: practices, providers, and patients (experiences and values). Invitations (telephone, electronic or mailed) were sent to family physicians. Eligible participants were sent a package of surveys. Provincial teams kept records on the number of: invitation emails/letters sent, physicians who registered, practices that were sent surveys, and practices returning completed surveys. Response and cooperation rates were calculated.
Results: Invitations to participate were sent to approximately 23,000 family physicians across Canada. A total of 792 physicians and 8,332 patients from 772 primary care practices completed the surveys, including 1,160 participants completing a Patient Values survey and 7,172 participants completing a Patient Experience survey. Overall, the response rate was very low ranging from 2% (British Columbia) to 21% (Nova Scotia). However, the participation rate was high, ranging from 72% (Ontario) to 100% (New Brunswick/Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland & Labrador).
Conclusions: The difficulties obtaining acceptable response rates by family physicians for survey participation is a universal challenge. This response rate for the QUALICO-PC arm in Canada was similar to rates found in other countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Even though most family physicians operate as self-employed small businesses, they could be supported to routinely submit data through a collective effort and provincial mandate. The groundwork in setting up pan-Canadian collaboration in primary care has been established through this study.