The family doctor shortage in Canada has been in the news a lot lately, highlighting the struggle for many to find one.
An aging population, declining numbers of medical students entering family medicine, and an uptick in family doctors stopping work are all indications of a problem that is only going to get worse. Unless we do something about it.
There are many potential solutions. We need to increase the number of family medicine role models in medical school. We need to offer new grads the option of going into practice that doesn’t involve running their own small business. We need to improve family medicine pay relative to other medical specialties. We need to make it easier for family doctors to take a vacation while having their patients cared for.
But there’s one solution that comes up over and over again. We need to expand interprofessional teams.
Right now, most family doctors in Canada are small-business owners who run their own practices. They may work with a group of other doctors, sharing expenses for office space and reception staff but most run their own practice. However, few work with other health professionals like social workers, dietitians, pharmacists or nurse practitioners in their practice.
Yet the evidence is clear that family doctors working in teams with other health professionals is better for patients and better for clinicians.
Our own research has shown that patients who have a doctor working with an interprofessional team were more likely to get recommended diabetes care. They were also less likely to visit the emergency department.