Rural Health Services in BC: A Policy Framework to Provide a System of Quality Care

Strategic Context

The focus of this paper is on the wide variety of challenges and strategies to improve access to health care in rural and remote communities. While there are many benefits to rural life, living in rural British Columbia clearly presents some unique challenges of providing appropriate access to health care. These challenges stem from multiple factors: geographic remoteness, long distances, low population densities, less availability of other providers and inclement weather conditions. The presenting challenge is how best to meet the range of health service needs for rural and remote communities.

Rural Health Services in BC: A Policy Framework to Provide a System of Quality Care is a planning and action framework that will be used to enable a consistent approach to addressing health service priorities through a rural lens. Policy directions will be built around four categories: understanding population and patient health; developing quality and sustainable care models; recruiting and retaining engaged, skilled health care providers; and supported by enabling IT/IM tools and processes that together will allow innovation and flexibility in responding to the diversity of geographies across the Province of British Columbia.

The goals and objectives of the planning and action framework align with the strategic direction for the health system in Setting Priorities for the BC Health System (Priorities 2, 3, 4, and 7) and the areas of focus set out in the BC Health System Strategy Implementation: A Collaborative and Focused Approach published in April 2014 by the BC Ministry of Health. They also align with the three overarching goals of the Triple Aim (developed through the Institute of Health Improvement):

       1. Improving the health of populations;

       2. Improving the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction), to which B.C. has recognized the additional requirement of improving the experience of delivering care for providers and support staff as critical to patient-centred care built on efforts of those who deliver and support health services; and

       3. Reducing the per capita cost of health by focusing on quality (especially effectiveness and appropriateness) and the efficiency of health care delivery.

Health Canadacihr logo1This initiative has been generously funded by grants from Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the funders.