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Impact of Québec’s healthcare reforms on the organization of primary healthcare (PHC): a 2003-2010 follow-up

Raynald Pineault1234*, Roxane Borgès Da Silva1245, Alexandre Prud’homme12, Michel Fournier1, Audrey Couture12, Sylvie Provost123 and Jean-Frédéric Levesque6

Author Affiliations

1 Direction de santé publique de l’Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada

2 Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Québec, QC, Canada

3 Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada

4 Institut de recherche en santé publique de l’Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada

5 Faculté des sciences infirmières de l’Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada

6 Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, University of New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:229  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-229

Published: 21 May 2014



Healthcare reforms initiated in the early 2000s in Québec involved the implementation of new modes of primary healthcare (PHC) delivery and the creation of Health and Social Services Centers (HSSCs) to support it. The objective of this article is to assess and explain the degree of PHC organizational change achieved following these reforms.


We conducted two surveys of PHC organizations, in 2005 and 2010, in two regions of the province of Québec, Canada. From the responses to these surveys, we derived a measure of organizational change based on an index of conformity to an ideal type (ICIT). One set of explanatory variables was contextual, related to coercive, normative and mimetic influences; the other consisted of organizational variables that measured receptivity towards new PHC models. Multilevel analyses were performed to examine the relationships between ICIT change in the post-reform period and the explanatory variables.


Positive results were attained, as expressed by increase in the ICIT score in the post-reform period, mainly due to implementation of new types of PHC organizations (Family Medicine Groups and Network Clinics). Organizational receptivity was the main explanatory variable mediating the effect of coercive and mimetic influences. Normative influence was not a significant factor in explaining changes.


Changes were modest at the system level but important with regard to new forms of PHC organizations. The top-down decreed reform was a determining factor in initiating change whereas local coercive and normative influences did not play a major role. The exemplar role played by certain PHC organizations through mimetic influence was more important. Receptivity of individual organizations was both a necessary condition and a mediating factor in influencing change. This supports the view that a combination of top-down and bottom-up strategy is best suited for achieving substantial changes in PHC local organization.

Primary healthcare organization; Healthcare reform; Organizational change; Family practice