Family health teams (FHTs), regarded today as a premier model of provision of primary care services in North America, were introduced in 2004 to improve traditionally fragmented primary healthcare in Ontario. Physicians and healthcare providers from various disciplines team up under the same roof in FHTs to provide and coordinate care and to ensure adequate access to and continuity of care. Because many Canadians with mental health problems consult family physicians in primary care, routine evaluation of the delivery of primary mental health care services in FHTs is becoming important.
The authors' goal was to develop and test an evaluation tool (containing a questionnaire for patients and a questionnaire for providers) for mental health services provided in FHTs with a focus on accessibility, availability, quality, continuity of care and coordination of services. They developed and pilot tested an English-French tailored evaluation instrument in several FHTs in South East, Champlain and North East Local Health Integration Networks across Ontario. A convenience sample of English- and French-speaking healthcare providers and patients using mental health services was recruited. Provider and patient questionnaires were developed and pilot-tested with 12 providers and 10 clients. Patient reviewers rated the patient questionnaire consistently as "good" or "very good." Provider reviewers found the provider questionnaire to be important and timely and the questions to be adequate and interesting.
This instrument evaluates, from both the patient and provider perspectives, whether mental health services are structured to meet expectations set for FHTs, and enables healthcare providers, administrators and policy makers to learn about the benefits and the deficiencies of mental health care delivered through these clinics. This instrument can also be used to enhance future research and evaluation of FHTs. Further validation effort will be required to establish its validity and reliability.
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