Every day, thousands of Canadians receive primary health care (PHC) services, usually through a nurse practitioner, a general practitioner or a family physician. PHC is an important source of chronic disease prevention and management. It may involve health professionals such as nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, dietitians, physiotherapists and social workers.

This type of care typically involves

  • Routine care
  • Care for urgent but minor or common health problems
  • Mental health care
  • Maternity and child care
  • Psychosocial services
  • Liaison with home care
  • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Nutrition counselling
  • End-of-life care

Primary Health Care Information Program

CIHI’s Primary Health Care (PHC) Information Program provides leadership in improving and making available PHC data and information across Canada. In collaboration with multiple stakeholders, including providers and health system decision-makers, CIHI offers data solutions (standards to improve PHC electronic medical record [EMR] data) and information solutions (indicators and analyses) that can be used to

  • Better understand PHC and its role in the broader health system
  • Report on priority PHC indicators and health system performance
  • Inform health policy and decision-making at various levels

We welcome your feedback and questions

Primary health care information

 Reports and analyses

Reports and analyses


Pan-Canadian primary health care EMR minimum data set for performance measurement 

CIHI has provided national leadership on PHC electronic medical record (EMR) data standards for over a decade. Working with key jurisdictional stakeholders to accelerate standards adoption, CIHI initially released the Primary Health Care Electronic Medical Record Content Standard (PHC EMR CS) in 2009, which evolved into the Pan-Canadian PHC EMR CS, Version 3.0 — Clinician-Friendly Pick-List Guide in 2014. 

The PHC EMR CS v2.1 and v3.0 have now been refocused into the PHC EMR Minimum Data Set (MDS) for Performance Measurement (45 core data elements, 61 supplementary data elements) to facilitate its future evolution. This iteration has been informed in part through input from members of the pan-Canadian PHC Standards and Data Working Group. While the number of data elements and associated code system examples has changed over time, the goal has remained the same: to support the generation of comparable PHC EMR data to meet targeted information needs across Canada. 

When implemented in point-of-care systems and/or used for data aggregation, the standard will enable the generation of comparable PHC EMR data and support performance measurement for clinical and health system use — including clinical program management, health system management, research and population health monitoring. 

Pan-Canadian Primary Health Care Electronic Medical Record Minimum Data Set for Performance Measurement, Version 1.0  (Apr 2020)

Toward a shared standard for EMR data

In November 2018, CIHI hosted an invitational forum to bring together thought-leaders for a dialogue on standardizing primary care EMR data in Canada. Learn more with these highlights and recommendations.

Forging the Path: Toward a Shared Standard for EMR Data — Highlights and Recommendations From CIHI’s Primary Care Forum (Nov 2019)

Pan-Canadian primary health care performance measurement indicators

In 2006, CIHI released 105 pan-Canadian PHC indicators, which were identified through a consensus process as being necessary to measure and compare PHC performance at multiple levels within and across jurisdictions in Canada.

Building on this, in 2012, CIHI updated 2 suites of indicators—one to meet the needs of policy-makers and health system managers and the other to meet the needs of PHC providers. Broad stakeholder consultations were undertaken to ensure that the updated indicator definitions were developed in alignment with an identified data source, consistent with current clinical guidelines and reflected important aspects of PHC.