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New streamlined registry aims to speed up attaching patients to family doctors

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the goal is to reach out to everyone on the Health Connect registry at least every three months
While nearly 410,000 people have been connected to a physician since 2018, another 310,000 patients in need of a practitioner remain on the Health Connect Registry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A new streamlined and largely digital provincial registry will launch this month with the goal of accelerating the process of connecting patients to family doctors and nurse practitioners.

There are still about 800,000 people without a family doctor in B.C., despite the fact that about 700 more family physicians — 25 per cent of whom are on Vancouver Island — are working in in the province since December 2022, as well as about 60 more nurse practitioners.

The new provincial system will combine and digitize data from three existing registries — the Health Connect Registry for patients, a registry for practitioners and another for clinics. That will expedite and better monitor the patient-doctor matching process, Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday.

The new registry is expected to go live on April 17.

“This will significantly speed up the matching and attachment of patients with available primary-care providers,” Dix said.

The Health Connect Registry has about 310,000 patients registered and waiting for a doctor, while another 67,700 on the registry have already been attached or are close to it, according to the Health Ministry.

Prior to the Health Connect Registry going province-wide last summer, there were regional wait lists on which patients were registered for a family doctor.

Health Link B.C. will contact everyone currently signed up to confirm they’re still looking for a primary-care provider, check on changes to their health status and provide information on health services in their area, Dix said.

“Going forward, we plan to reach out to everyone on the Health Connect Registry at least every three months,” he said.

Dix said the new system will replace a mainly manual one, and for the first time automatically provide a complete overview of where patients, physicians and clinics are in the system and where attachments can occur.

The Panel Registry for practitioners has seen about 4,500 ­family physicians and nurse practitioners — just over 87 per cent — upload their patient numbers.

More than 800 practitioners have said they could accommodate a total of up to 170,000 new patients.

Given the rate of population growth, however, Dix said it will likely take another 700 or 800 physicians and nurse practitioners to attach everyone who wants a family doctor.

Almost 1,600 clinics have also uploaded their information to the province.

The new Provincial ­Attachment System, run by Health Link B.C., will use 70 ­primary-care network attachment co-ordinators — some newly hired — to link the three registries and automatically identify available physicians and nurse practitioners.

It’s taken months to build out the system, Dix said.

Co-ordinators will be able to digitally access the Health Connect Registry to understand the complexity of a patient’s needs, any recent diagnoses, as well as the length of time the patient has been on the registry.

Some patients on Vancouver Island are among those who have waited the longest.

The registry co-ordinators can then refer patients to ­family practitioners, ensuring those doctors and clinics get a balance of low- to high-needs patients, and keeping family units together where possible.

People will be initially contacted with updates on their registration via phone calls and emails, expanding to text messages as the system ramps up and patient information is updated.

Dix encouraged everyone who needs a family doctor and hasn’t done so already to join the Health Connect Registry at “We’ve got spaces available… We’re going to work our way through that list.”

Dix could not promise a time frame in which patients would be attached to doctors but said patients will be prioritized based on the severity of their conditions and their place on the registry.

B.C. United Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon said during a press availability Thursday that he knows people who have been on the registry since it was initiated “with no word, no doctor, no results.”

Falcon served as health ­minister in the former B.C. Liberal government, which abandoned its GP For Me program in 2016 after a failed attempt to match every patient with a family doctor.

Dr. Ahmer Karimuddin, president of the Doctors of B.C., acknowledged there are too many patients without a family doctor or access to specialist care and too much demand on ER departments and hospitals, but he said the new streamlined registry represents significant progress.

“This will help family doctors to expand their clinics to bring new patients in more quickly,” said Karimuddin. “This is actual progress. This is actual hope.”

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> Online: health-connect-registry

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