Moving beyond headcounts: improved physician workforce planning for primary care in BC

This Health System Impact Fellowship is co-funded by CIHR, Michael Smith Health Research BC, and the BC Ministry of Health (health system partner), to help build BC’s health policy research capacity for the integration of policy research into decision-making.


Consistent access to high-quality family medicine improves the health of the population and lowers the costs of health care. Reports of family medicine shortages and of difficulties in accessing family physicians are ubiquitous in British Colombia (BC). To address shortages and access challenges, the Ministry of Health needs a clear understanding of how many active family doctors are working within provincial borders, how many are providing comprehensive and patient-centered care, how they structure their practices, and how patients access (or do not access) the services they provide.


The Ministry also needs a method to accurately estimate the future supply of family physicians and services in order to proactively design and implement policies that will address upcoming accessibility issues. These challenges are particularly salient given the upcoming rollout of team-based care across the province.


To address these issues, this fellowship will integrate the results of several ongoing studies into a strategy for proactive physician workforce planning, supporting recruitment and retention efforts and the development and evaluation of new models of family medicine practice. It will provide granular data on the supply of comprehensive care, identify current and future gaps, and inform policy on training, recruitment and retention of family physicians. Ultimately, it will enhance the capacity for evidence-informed workforce planning within BC’s Ministry of Health, leading to downstream improvements in access to family medicine across the province.