Details on B.C.’s long-awaited payment plan for family physicians released

Details on B.C.’s long-awaited payment plan for family physicians released

The BC government, in partnership with Doctors of BC, has released details of its new GP payment model, a plan that could transform primary care across the province.

Payment details of the Longitudinal Family Physician Payment Model were distributed to GPs on Friday. The payment model includes compensating physicians for their time, patient interactions, and the complexity of patient needs.

dr Joshua Greggain, Doctors of BC president and GP, said the plan will help ease the health crisis.

“We really feel that the expectation and aspiration is that as we improve family medicine, our primary care, and draw on team-based care, everything will get better in due course,” he said. “This is an opportunity to transform healthcare with the flick of a switch.”

Under the previous fee-for-service model, physicians were not paid for time spent completing paperwork, reviewing lab results, or updating patient records. That will change on February 1st when the new payment model is implemented.

The payment model has primary care physicians pay about $130 an hour for the time they spend on the job, whether meeting with patients in person or virtually, reviewing test results, or running their practice.

Physicians will continue to bill the province for each patient interaction, receiving between $25 and $110 depending on the type of interaction.

An annual “panel fee” for each patient a family doctor sees is also paid, with the payment for a patient of “average complexity” being about $34 per year. The payment will be higher or lower depending on the actual complexity of the patient.

The province first announced the payment plan in October. Full-time physicians will be paid about $385,000 a year under the new model, up from $250,000 currently, the province said.

This increase is expected to make a significant difference as doctors in BC need to find and rent their own space, hire their own staff and source their own equipment.

In BC, Greggain said, there are about 6,500 GPs, of whom about 3,500 perform the type of “longitudinal care” — caring for the same patients over many years — that the model is designed for.

During the pandemic, he said, many doctors either took early retirement or left to work in other provinces where the payment structure made financial sense. He hopes the plan will entice doctors to return to BC and rejoin family medicine.

“Longitudinal GPs really feel like there’s hope now where there wasn’t before,” he told CTV News.

Vancouver resident Kate Ferguson has hoped BC’s GP population will increase. She has been off work for two months with a back injury and has called nearly 200 clinics looking for help, some as far away as Fort St. John.

“I usually deal with ‘no’ by being a person who just keeps finding other solutions and there are no other solutions. I keep banging my head against the wall. It’s very frustrating,” she said. “It’s just stunning. What other responsibility does a government have than looking after its people?”

In a statement to CTV News, the Department of Health said it was trying to address “the complex problem of British Columbia’s doctor shortage,” but acknowledged the problem could not be solved overnight.

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