One of the most imperative and meaningful relationships in our lives and that of our family members is our family doctor.
Having recently moved to a new town two hours back and forth from my old neighbourhood, establishing a new family physician was at the top of my must-do list.
I admit, I wasn’t looking forward to doing this. I loved our previous family doctor — she knew me and my husband even prior to having children (in fact, she aided and supported us during our journey to parenthood and recommended me to my first amazing ob/gyn). She knew me well, both physically and emotionally, and was genuinely considerate and nurturing towards me, my husband and then as the first medical doctor to my firstborn.
When she retired, I was dismal.
My next family doctor was arduous to even see. Her practice was a family health team which included a team of health professionals that all took turns covering for one another when it was difficult to see your actual doctor. This was great for those that prefer timely care and have challenging schedules but not for those that preferred to have a more personal one-on-one with their family doctor.
I rarely got to see her because of our schedules and found myself and my family members being seen my R.N.’s or other doctors for each appointment.
However, what I did appreciate about this practice was their use of technology and EMR’s (Electronic Medical Records) or also referred to as EHR (Electronic Health Record).
This made life so much more easier when it came to tracking appointments, prescriptions and checking our health records including lab work results from my smartphone or laptop at home.
I felt like I had more control over my family’s health, which although proved difficult to build a personal relationship with my family doctor at the time, bolstered in bridging that gap. It enabled me to be part of my healthcare team and assist in managing my own health.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a combination of both I told myself. These are two major factors I would consider when seeking out a new family doctor.
I am so impressed with the advances in digital health and I am hoping to see the developments ahead, for the benefit of my health and the health of my family.
Improving Healthcare With Digital Innovation
89% of Canadians believe that digital health solutions will lead to better care; however, 48% of them are unaware of existing services that are already available through electronic methods at medical offices, health clinics or pharmacies in some parts of the country.*
A survey conducted last year by Maru/VCR&C and commissioned by Telus Health, Canada’s largest health IT company, shared some critical and constructive data. Findings that medical practitioners and patients should be aware of.
The survey found that 89% of millennials, 83% of Gen Xers and 79% of baby boomers say they feel comfortable with the idea of digital health technology tools; with nearly nine out of 10 (87%) of all respondents saying they are comfortable with sharing their medical history digitally between their healthcare providers.*
More from the Telus Health Digital Life survey
• Canadians surveyed ranked personal banking (75%), social media (51%) and shopping (50%) among the most important things they do online, while fewer than half of Canadians (48 percent) ranked access to personal medical records as one of their top online activities.
• Of those surveyed, 81% agreed that health information should be shared digitally between doctors and pharmacists, and 75% of respondents agree that electronic prescriptions would limit the number of medical errors.
• More than three-quarters (76%) of Canadians surveyed believe that electronic medical records (EMRs) improve communication between doctors and their patients. An EMR replaces the paper charts doctors keep with a digital file to track all of a patient’s medical history, lab results and prescriptions in one place.
• Canadians’ attitudes towards EMRs are overwhelmingly positive, though 56% of respondents couldn’t say if their family doctor used one. According to a 2015 Canadian Institute for Health Information study, 73% of Canadian primary care physicians use EMRs.
• The majority of Canadians surveyed agree that EMRs provide accurate information to doctors about their patients (80%), help doctors diagnose patients more effectively and more efficiently (75%) and allow for safe and secure sharing of medical information with patients, pharmacists, other doctors and specialists (71%).
What To Look For When Searching For A New Doctor
In addition to a more digital health team, here are a few key things to chart as you search for a new family doctor:
- Are they accepting new patients? Talk to your community (online forums or neighbours) and find out who their family doctors are and if they know any accepting new patients. This will usually help you better pre-screen a doctor and their practice.
- Do you prefer a Male or Female physician?
- Do you need a family a doctor with a particular background or medical speciality?
Some practices focus on certain groups of patients (i.e. young families & children, seniors, etc.)
- Does your doctor have privileges at the hospital where you prefer to be treated?
- Location: How far are you willing to travel for appointments? Is parking available or are they accessible to public transport?
- Hours: Do you need a doctor that has evening or weekend hours? What is your doctors availability and regular office hours?
- Access to care: As mentioned above in my experience, some physicians work in family health groups while others have solo practices
- How long does it usually take to get a routine appointment? How about for emergencies?
- If English isn’t your first language or for someone in your family, does the doctor or staff speak the language you’re most comfortable with?
- What is their appointment Cancellation policy? While this may not be hugely important, it’s certainly a good-to-know as some offices have a very strict policy (including a hefty fee) for missed (or forgotten) appointments. I’ve had this happen to me once; was definitely not happy about the surprise bill!
- Will Doctors or nurses give you advice over the phone? Will they answer emails concerning health?
- Where do patients typically for for lab work?
- Who covers for your family doctor when they’re out of town?
If you’re the highly inquisitive type (like me), or even if you’re not, why not play sleuth and read up more on your potential family doctor? Ask your community in online neighbourhood forums such as on Facebook, Google them and check their ratings online. You can check local doctor reviews at RateMDs.com.
Of course, take each review with a grain of salt. Each patient has different encounters and for distinct reasons so it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have the same experience with the doctor.
Most importantly, you want a family doctor you can develop a trusting relationship with. And as in any relationship in life, it takes time. You may want to give the relationship some time to develop.
It’s important to consider how well a doctors personal style and communication skills match yours.
Consider personal rapport and compatibility when you’re with your doctor.
Do they interrupt you often? A good doctor will be respectful, patient, encourage you to ask questions and listen to your concerns.
Also, a good doctor will also take interest in you and your children personally and consider both physical and emotional needs.
Trust your reactions and feelings when deciding whether a particular family doctor is right for you and your family. If you really don’t feel right about a doctor or their practice, keep searching!
Do you know if your family doctor’s practice uses EMR’s?
How quickly do you get access to your family doctor including lab results?
Do you wish you had better digital access to your family doctor and/or pharmacist or other medical practitioners?
Let me know below; I’m curious and interested to hear your thoughts on this.
Wishing you a happy and healthy new year where you can finally take more control over your healthcare!
About Telus Health
Telus Health is a leader in telehomecare, electronic medical and health records, consumer health, benefits management and pharmacy management. Telus Health solutions give health authorities, providers, physicians, patients and consumers the power to turn information into better health outcomes. For more information about Telus Health, please visit telushealth.com.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post with Telus as a member of Team Telus. All opinions expressed are entirely those of the author.