Introduction: The paper highlights key trajectories and outcomes of the recent policy developments toward integrated health care delivery systems in Quebec and Ontario in the primary care sector and in the development of regional networks of health and social services. It particularly explores how policy legacies, interests and cultures may be mitigated to develop and sustain different models of integrated health care that are pertinent to the local contexts.
Policy developments: In Quebec, three decades of iterative developments in health and social services evolved in 2005 into integrated centres for health and social services at the local levels (CSSSs). Four integrated university-based health care networks provide ultra-specialised services. Family Medicine Groups and network clinics are designed to enhance access and continuity of care. Ontario's Family Health Teams (2004) constitute an innovative public funding for private delivery model that is set up to enhance the capacity of primary care and to facilitate patient-based care. Ontario's Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) with autonomous boards of provider organizations are intended to coordinate and integrate care.
Conclusion: Integration strategies in Quebec and Ontario yield clinical autonomy and power to physicians while simultaneously making them key partners in change. Contextual factors combined with increased and varied forms of physician remunerations and incentives mitigated some of the challenges from policy legacies, interests and cultures. Virtual partnerships and accountability agreements between providers promise positive but gradual movement toward integrated health service systems.