December 12, 2022

A new FPSC program pilot aims to provide longitudinal family physicians and nurse practitioners with an effective solution for after hours coverage for their longitudinal patients.

The After Hours Coverage Program is a partnership between FPSC and four Divisions of Family Practice—Langley, South Island and Victoria, South Okanagan Similkameen, and Thompson Region. It is made possible using the infrastructure and expertise of HealthLink BC. 

The pilot aims to address pain points raised by family doctors in The Future of Primary Care: Doctors of BC 2022 Member Engagement Report. These include addressing on-call requirements, lack of compensation, and the added burden of organizing and maintaining after-hours coverage.

FPSC’s partners agreed on the pilot program at the FPSC Core meeting in September 2022. The pilot aligns with the shared commitment of the BC Ministry of Health and Doctors of BC to reduce physician burdens and address concerns about providing after hours care. Learnings from the pilot will inform the future development and implementation of a provincial solution for after hours coverage that could also be scaled to include unattached patients. More details will follow as the program rolls out in the new year.

Scheduled to launch at the end of March 2023 and run for six months, the after hours pilot will be open to all family doctors, practices, and existing call groups from the pilot divisions. While participation is completely optional, the service does meet the College of Physicians and Surgeons practice standard for Care Coverage Outside Regular Office Hours. Physicians to work the service will be recruited from the same pilot communities.

Attached patients of physicians and nurse practitioners participating in the pilot will receive access to after hours medical care and advice from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. weeknights, and all-day weekends and stat holidays.

Clear emergencies and calls related to administrative issues will be redirected as appropriate. Otherwise, if a patient requires guidance from a longitudinal family physician, they will be connected to a physician staffing the pilot.

In some cases, the service could save patients from unnecessary trips to the ER. In all cases, it will ensure enhanced continuity for patient care, with encounter notes sent to the community MRP/patient medical home to become part of a patient’s longitudinal record. Those working the service will have patient information through access to CareConnect, Pharmanet, and the HealthLink BC EMR.

The pilot is part of a new suite of FPSC supports that include an urban locum coverage pilot program, a one-time top up to the 2022 CLFP payment to enhance financial supports for community longitudinal family physicians (CLFP), an evolution to the PCN governance model, and a new compensation model for family doctors.

A provincial steering committee with leadership from FPSC/Doctors of BC, the pilot divisions, and HealthLink BC is overseeing the pilot. FPSC is providing support for the pilot’s project management, evaluation, engagement, and local administration.