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 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

Read our information sheet to learn more about the Primary Health Care Information program.

For more information on patient reporting and experience measures in acute care, please visit our Patient Experience page.

We welcome your feedback and questions

Primary health care information

 Reports and analyses
 Databases and data sources

Reports and analyses

Databases and data sources

PHC Voluntary Reporting System (decommissioned EMR data source)

The PHC Voluntary Reporting System (PHC VRS) was a potential data source of PHC EMR data. From 2009 to 2013, CIHI worked with participating PHC clinicians across Canada to collect and analyze a subset of EMR data in a privacy-sensitive manner using the prototype PHC VRS. These clinicians received comparative feedback reports on quality indicators, utilization and their practice profile. The PHC VRS provided tremendous insight on the need for a priority subset of PHC EMR data standards.

This initiative showed that most EMR data was free text, making data extraction and analysis labour-intensive and unsustainable on a large scale. As a result, CIHI retired the PHC VRS in 2013 and is now focused on developing PHC EMR content standards. This will enable jurisdictions to support the collection of structured EMR data.

The PHC VRS has been a valuable tool that has helped shape the EMR landscape across Canada. CIHI has documented the lessons learned from the prototype.


Pan-Canadian primary health care 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 two 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.

Pan-Canadian primary health care EMR content standard

Working with key stakeholders, including Canada Health Infoway, CIHI released the pan-Canadian PHC EMR Content Standard (PHC EMR CS) in 2011. Informed by consultations and environmental scans, CIHI is working with a pan-Canadian Jurisdictional Advisory Group to accelerate standards adoption by issuing a PHC EMR CS priority subset (from 106 to 45 data elements) and associated clinician-friendly pick-lists. When implemented at the point of care, the standard will increase the availability of structured coded data in EMRs and support quality improvement and health system use.  

To get the latest version of our EMR Content Standard, send us an email: phc@cihi.ca.

Get more detailed information

Pan-Canadian primary health care survey questions and tools

CIHI worked with survey experts from across the country to develop a core set of primary health care survey questions and supporting survey instruments. This effort drew on existing survey questions in use in Canada and internationally. 
While coordinated by CIHI, this work was led by survey experts and informed and influenced by future users of the tools. Our goal is to develop and release a core set of pan-Canadian primary health care patient, provider and practice survey questions and supporting tools for a broad range of users.

For more information, send us an email: phc@cihi.ca