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Trends in attachment to a primary care provider in Ontario, 2008–2018: an interrupted time-series analysis


Background — Attachment to a regular primary care provider is associated with better health outcomes, but 15% of people in Canada lack a consistent source of ongoing primary care. We sought to evaluate trends in attachment to a primary care provider in Ontario in 2008–2018, through an equity lens and in relation to policy changes in implementation of payment reforms and team-based care.

Methods — Using linked, population-level administrative data, we conducted a retrospective observational study to calculate rates of patients attached to a regular primary care provider from Apr. 1, 2008, to Mar. 31, 2019. We evaluated the association of patient characteristics and attachment in 2018 using sex-stratified, adjusted, multivariable logistic regression models and used segmented piecewise regression to evaluate changing trends before and after implementation of a policy that restricted physician entry to alternate models.

Results — Attachment increased from 80.5% (n = 10 352 385) in 2008 to 88.9% of the population (n = 12 537 172) in 2018, but was lower among people with low comorbidity, high residential instability, material deprivation, rural residence and recent immigrants. Inequities narrowed for recent immigrants, males and people with lower incomes over the study period, but disparities persisted for these groups. Attachment grew by 1.47% annually until 2014 (p < 0.0001), but was stagnant thereafter (annual percent change of 0.13, p = 0.16).

Interpretation — Lack of sustained progress in attachment followed reduced levels of physician entry to alternate funding models. Although disparities narrowed for many groups over the study period, persistent gaps remained for immigrants and people with lower incomes; targeted interventions and policy changes are needed to address these persistent gaps.



Bayoumi I, Glazier RH, Jaakkimainen L, Premji K, Kiran T, Frymire E, Khan S, Green ME. CMAJ Open. 2023; 11(5):E809-E819. Epub 2023 Sep 5.

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