The challenges of urban family physician program over the past decade in Iran: a scoping review and qualitative study with policy-makers


Family Physician, scoping review, qualitative study, Iran


Introduction: Despite all the advantages of urban family physician program (UFPP), there is still a gap between UFPP and what is actually achieved by the community after its implementation in Iran. In response, this study attempted to review published studies related to the barriers to the implementation of the UFPP in Iran as well as potential solutions to improve it. Further, a qualitative study was conducted to learn the perspectives of experts at the national level and in the Fars province in order to better understand the program's challenges.

Methods: This study was conducted in two phases. First, a scoping review was done, aiming to identify the common barriers and potential solutions to implementing UFPP in Iran. Second, a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews was conducted to investigate the views of decision- and policy-makers regarding barriers to and solutions for implementing the UFPP in the Fars province over the last decade. The findings were classified using the five control knobs framework (Organization, financing, payment, regulation, and behavior). 

Results: The most common barriers to UFPP were: 1) organization (ununited stewardship function of the Ministry of Health, weak management and planning, inadequate training of human resources, and a weak referral system); 2) financing (fragmented insurance funds, insufficient financial resources, and instability of financial resources); 3) payment (inappropriate payment mechanisms and delay in payments); 4) regulation (cumbersome laws and unclear laws); and 5) behavior (cultural problems and conflict of interests). On the other hand, several solutions were identified to improve the implementation of UFPP, including: enhancing the role of government; improving the referral system; providing comprehensive training for UFPP providers; considering sustainable financial resources; moving towards mixed-payment mechanisms; employing appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks; enhancing community awareness; and elevating incentive mechanisms.

Conclusion: Our research found that, despite the UFPP having been in place for a decade in Iran, there are still significant challenges in all five components. Therefore, the promotion of this program requires solving the existing implementation challenges in order to achieve the predetermined goals. The ideas in this study can be used to improve the current program in Fars Province and bring it to other cities in Iran.


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