Research has shown that a strong primary healthcare system results in better health outcomes and lower costs (Starfield 1994). A key characteristic of a strong primary healthcare system is access to care. Two elements of a strong healthcare system are accessibility and short wait times for service. In Canada, a shortage of primary healthcare providers is the biggest obstacle to reducing wait times to primary healthcare services; however, timely access to one's primary healthcare provider is also a significant barrier (Howell 2008). Wait times to see primary care physicians are longer for Canadians than for patients in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom (Bundy et al. 2005; College of Family Physicians of Canada 2006; Sanmartin and Ross 2006). Longer wait times are associated with patient dissatisfaction, poorer individual health outcomes and an increased use of emergency departments and urgent care clinics (Gupta and Denton 2008; Hill and Joonas 2005; Hudec et al. 2010; Valenti and Bookhardt-Murray 2004).
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