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Managing Chronic Disease in Ontario Primary Care: The Impact of Organizational Factors

Source Info: 
7 (4): 309-318



New approaches to chronic disease management emphasize the need to improve the delivery of primary care services to meet the needs of chronically ill patients. This study (1) assessed whether chronic disease management differed among 4 models of primary health care delivery and (2) identifi ed which practice organizational factors were independently associated with high-quality care.


We undertook a cross-sectional survey with nested qualitative case studies (2 practices per model) in 137 randomly selected primary care practices from 4 delivery models in Ontario Canada: fee for service, capitation, blended payment, and community health centers (CHCs). Practice and clinician surveys were based on the Primary Care Assessment Tool. A chart audit assessed evidence-based care delivery for patients with diabetes, congestive heart failure,
and coronary artery disease. Intermediate outcomes were calculated for patients with diabetes and hypertension. Multiple linear regression identified those organizational factors independently associated with chronic disease management.


Chronic disease management was superior in CHCs. Clinicians in CHCs found it easier than those in the other models to promote high-quality care through longer consultations and interprofessional collaboration. Across the whole sample and independent of model, high-quality chronic disease management was associated with the presence of a nurse-practitioner. It was also associated with lower patient-family physician ratios and when practices had 4 or fewer full-time-equivalent family physicians.


The study adds to the literature supporting the value of nursepractitioners within primary care teams and validates the contributions of Ontario’s CHCs. Our observation that quality of care decreased in larger, busier practices suggests that moves toward larger practices and greater patientphysician ratios may have unanticipated negative effects on processes of care quality.