Governments in Ontario have promised family physicians (FPs) that participation in primary care reform would be financially as well as professionally rewarding.
The authors compared work satisfaction, incomes and work patterns of FPs practising in different models to determine whether the predicted benefits to physicians really materialized. Study participants included 332 FPs in Ontario practising in five models of care.
The study combined self-reported survey data with administrative data from ICES and income data from the Canada Revenue Agency. FPs working in non-fee-for-service (FFS) models had higher levels of work satisfaction than those in FFS models. Incomes were similar across groups prior to the advent of primary care reform. Incomes of family health network FPs rose by about 30%, while family health group FPs saw increases of about 10% and those in FFS experienced minimal changes or decreases. Self-reported change in income was not reliable, with only 47% of physicians correctly identifying whether their income remained stable, increased or decreased.
The availability of a variety of FFS- and non-FFS-based payment options, each designed to accommodate physicians with different types or styles of practice, may be a useful tool for governments as they grapple with issues of physician recruitment and retention.