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How do people manage without a family doctor?

June 23, 2014

Dr. Wai-Sun “Sunny” Chan is a family physician who recently moved to Canada and set up practice outside of Ottawa. On Wednesday, June 25 at 9 pm ET, Sunny will moderate #hcsmca for the first time to discuss Canada’s shortage of physicians in primary care. What does this have to do with social media? Let’s explore. 

By Dr Wai-Sun Chan (@DrWaiSun)

headshot Dr WaiSun Chan

Dr WaiSun Chan

General practice or family medicine, as it is referred to in North America, is the practice of clinical medicine in the community. Traditionally family physicians are the physicians of first contact for patients, providing primary and continuing care to individuals and families. Family physicians often make the initial decision on medical issues. Sometimes they may take on role of patient advocate and are often key champions in promoting public health and health within the community through their involvement of chronic disease management, cancer screening and vaccination programs. Thus it’s not hard to see why many health systems around the world rely on an effective, organized primary care system with the family physician playing a central role.

It has been estimated that in excess of 4 million people in Canada do not have a family physician. When you consider there are approximately 35 million people living in Canada, then roughly 1 in 10 people are without a family physician. For a highly developed western country this statistic is rather shocking.

People without a family physician are

  • less likely to receive continuity of care
  • less actively to be involved in health promotion activities
  • more likely to receive inadequate care and monitoring of chronic conditions
  • more likely to experience delays in diagnosis

I qualified as a family physician in the United Kingdom over 11 years ago and have worked in both the British National Health Service and Irish health systems. I immigrated to Canada nearly 18 months ago to work as a family physician outside of Ottawa. I had heard much of the problem with the shortages of family physicians prior to my move however seeing the extent of this first hand was quite disturbing. In the first few months of opening my practice I saw elderly patients who had been without a family doctor for many years, families willing to travel over an hour to join my practice and patients residing in another province.

In my experience, family physicians are incredibly busy and patients often have to wait weeks before an appointment becomes available. Wait times to see hospital specialists are amongst the longest in the developed world and emergency departments work under incredible stress and pressure as many people use them as their first port of call for a medical assessment. The situation is far from ideal for everybody.

On Wednesday, June 25 at 9pm ET, I’d like to invite everyone to chat and explore how patients cope without a family physician and what role, if any, social media can play. If so, then how?

  • T1a How do people manage without a family doctor?
  • T2 Is the doctor–patient relationship (a fundamental strength of family medicine) over-rated?
  • T3 Can social media play a role in helping doctors & patients cope with family physician shortage?


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sanford Jeames permalink
    June 25, 2014 10:09 pm

    The discussion this evening involving physician/patient relationships and role of social media created lots of dialogue. No doubt, the healthcare system is changing, but are patients truly changing? The discussion introduced many concepts and strategies for expanded roles of patients themselves.


  2. June 25, 2014 10:28 pm

    Thanks for taking part in the chat Sanford. Here is the transcript of the chat for anyone who would like a recap:


  3. June 28, 2014 4:11 pm

    His massage therapy, acupuncture additional cleansing of the body and provides an alternative. Health Care chooses to be even more in the coming years. Most traditional family medicine doctors do not offer.


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