Dr. Tara Kiran on how team-based care adds to ‘clinician joy’ – and patient access

From CMA

Team-based care can improve patient access and alleviate pressure on family physicians. 

But in a survey of over 9,000 people in Canada, only 15% of respondents said they had access to health professionals in their primary care clinic beyond a doctor, nurse or nurse practitioner. 

The research is part of OurCare, a national project to engage the public on the future of primary care in Canada. It’s led by Dr. Tara Kiran, who is the Fidani Chair in Improvement and Innovation at the University of Toronto and a family physician with the St. Michael’s Hospital Academic Family Health Team.

Ahead of her appearance at the CMA’s 2023 Health Summit, we spoke to Dr. Kiran about why Canada needs more team-based care— and what it will take to make it the norm.

We’re in the middle of a massive primary care crisis— six million Canadians have no family doctor. Why talk about team-based care?

It is indeed a crisis. Primary care is the front door to the health system— and when you look at demographic trends, both for physicians and the population, you can see that there won’t be enough family doctors to go around for years to come. 

That’s where team-based care comes in. We need to build a system that expands the capacity of our existing family doctors and other primary care clinicians so they can serve more patients. 

How would team-based care improve capacity in primary care?

Not every problem needs to be seen by a family doctor. People with diabetes who have stable blood sugar levels can often be seen by a nurse. Physiotherapists have incredible skill when it comes to assessing musculoskeletal conditions. Social workers can connect seniors to meal supports or other programs in the community. 

We really have to rethink the structure of primary care so we maximize the value of both physicians and other health professionals.

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