Choosing the perfect family doctor

Image: Choosing the perfect family doctor

Finding a family doctor may be one of the most trying tasks of navigating the healthcare system.

As the healthcare needs of Canadians change over their lifetime, a family doctor should be a trusted resource that can keep up and stay in sync. While various health care professionals offer great medical advice, a family doctor can offer more specialized and holistic recommendations that better encompass long term medical planning. Family doctors can also work with other specialists to ensure you’re getting the best care.

Dr Sheila Wijayasinghe, Medical Director at the Immigrant Womens’ Health Centre, gives us her list of 5 things you need to consider when choosing a family doctor, courtesy of the Globe and Mail:

1. Is their office conveniently located?

When we’re sick, you want easy access to health care, so keep in mind the location of your doctor’s office. You want a location that is convenient and accessible (easy parking or subway access). Some of my patients choose our office because it’s located downtown near their work, so if they need care, they can come by during their work day. Alternatively, having a doctor close to home may be important to you, especially if you have small children and need quick access in your own neighbourhood. Check out your provincial College of Physicians and Surgeon website for their search tools, which use your postal code to find the closest clinics to your home or workplace.

2. Does this doctor have a specific scope of practice?

While most family doctors in Canada provide general care to all ages of patients, some do choose to narrow their scope of practice to an area that they have honed an expertise in. For example, if you have a young family with kids, ask about your doctor’s comfort in seeing children. If you have a special need such as a chronic pain condition or require counselling support, some doctors may have an interest in these areas, which may help you feel more comfortable in seeking their care.

3. How available is your doctor?

Find out when your doctor works during the week. Do they offer after-hours services and same-day care if needed? You should also find out if they work in a group practice with other doctors, or on their own in a solo practice. If they work in a group setting, they will often cross-cover for each other when they are away, so it ensures more availability to you.

4. Does age matter to you?

Consider the age of your doctor: It may be important to you and even impact your confidence in them. Some patients like to see older physicians, given the experience they may have. Others prefer seeing newer graduates, as they may have more up-to-date information.

5. Language needs?

If English is not your first language, looking for a doctor who speaks your native tongue will help you communicate your health problems with more ease. If finding a doctor who speaks the same language is not possible, ask if the clinic has translating services available to you.

The relationship with your family doctor should be a long-term commitment. Keep Dr. Wijayasinghe’s tips in mind and be selective in your choice. Find a doctor that suites your personal needs.

Article was written by Dr Sheila Wijayasinghe for the Globe and Mail – Ask a Health Expert. To read the original blog, please visit 5 things you might not have considered when choosing a family doctor.