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Using Patient Experiences to Improve Care in Primary Care

Health Quality Ontario has released a new survey tool to measure patient perspectives of care in primary care.

More and more, primary care organizations across the province are surveying their patients to get a sense of the quality of care they provide. Patient surveys are a useful tool. They are designed to be quick and easy to fill out, and they allow clinics to measure patient experiences over a long and diverse period of time.

There’s one problem though: Different surveys measure different things. Currently, the measurement of primary care patient experiences varies from clinic to clinic across Ontario. Some organizations have several years of experience with it, while others are new to the idea.

This inconsistency is further exacerbated by the fact that evidence-based surveys are actually quite difficult to create. Completing a comprehensive literature review and an evaluation of alternative tools can be time- consuming and complex. Survey questions have to be developed, validated, and tested for clarity and consistency. Team members and patients need to feel confident that the survey is measuring the right things and will be used for improvement. Despite the fact that universally we all want to improve the care we deliver, there isn’t a standardized, evidence-based tool that providers can use to measure how patients experience their care (regardless of the practice setting) – until now.

To bridge this gap, Health Quality Ontario (HQO) led an initiative to develop a Primary Care Patient Experience Survey that can be used by practices across the province. The process took more than a year to develop in collaboration with the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario (AFHTO), the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC), the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP), and the Ontario Medical Association (OMA). Patients, family physicians, nurse practitioners, and primary care teams also contributed to the survey’s development. For a complete list of the members of the Advisory and Joint Committee, please click here.

The finalized Primary Care Patient Experience Survey, now available on our website, equips primary care providers with a common, validated tool they can use to develop an understanding of their patients’ experiences of care, to discover what is working well, and to determine where there may be opportunities for improvement. It is completely voluntary and contains questions designed to support providers as they collect patient experience information for their annual Quality Improvement Plans (QIPs).

The survey is also now available in Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Spanish and Urdu so that we can reach an even wider audience and gather feedback from as many people as possible.

Like any good quality improvement tool, the survey and supports will continue to evolve. Should you have any questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact

If you are a primary care provider, I hope you will share the survey. And if you are a patient, I hope you will take the survey and help us help improve the quality of care across the province. Please share your thoughts with me via Twitter at @DrJoshuaTepper or email

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