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Tips on choosing a family doctor

Whether it's helping treat a bad cold, an ongoing medical condition or working with a specialist to help diagnose an illness, Chief of Family and Community Medicine Dr. David Eisen says, "The benefits of having a family doctor are endless because your doctor works as a central point of connection between you and the health care system.”
Dr. David Eisen, Chief of Family and Community Medicine, North York General Hospital
Dr. David Eisen, Chief of Family and Community Medicine, North York General Hospital (NYGH) 

Having a family physician who can, for example, access your medical history and make links between your current health condition and an illness you previously had is much more helpful than going to three different walk-in clinics he says.

Family physicians not only coordinate your care, but help to make sure you and your family get the care you need, when you need it, in the right setting, whether in the hospital or beyond its walls.

According to the Ontario Medical Association, in 2015 there were 800,000 people in the province without a family doctor.

Dr. Eisen says there are several ways to find a family doctor:
  • You might start with a Google search to find a doctor in your area and call the office to ask if the physician is taking new patients.
  • Another method is good old word of mouth from family and friends.
You could also visit the following websites:
  • The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and use the ‘Find a Doctor' search function.
  • North York General Hospital and use the ‘Find a Doctor' function located on the homepage under the “I want to” section on the right.
  • The Ontario government's Find a doctor webpage where you can register for Health Care Connect and be referred to a physician who is accepting new patients.
After finding a few family physicians in your area, how do you know who is right for you? Dr. Eisen gives us a few tips for choosing the right family doctor:

During the first appointment or meet and greet, it's important to establish a connection where you feel comfortable asking the physician questions and discussing your medical concerns.

During the first appointment or meet and greet, it's important to establish a connection where you feel comfortable asking the physician questions and discussing your medical concerns.

  • Making a connection – During the first appointment or meet and greet, it's important to establish a connection where you feel comfortable asking the physician questions and discussing your medical concerns. “The patient/physician relationship is central and integral to everything we do,” says Dr. Eisen. “It allows the patient to open up about their health and wellness which enables the physician to meet the patient's individual needs.”

  • Access to timely care – For many people, Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. may work well, but for others who work shifts or commute, earlier or later hours and weekend time slots may work better. Checking to see if the family physician has a schedule that works for you is very important.

  • Your specific health needs – Many family physicians have an interest in specific fields of medicine. For example, some North York General family physicians have an interest in obstetrics and deliver babies. Others may focus their practice on sports medicine, care of the elderly, palliative care, etc. Dr. Eisen highlights that many family physicians also work in various areas of the hospital, including emergency services, surgery, and inpatient care.

  • Hospital affiliation – Checking to see whether the physician is affiliated with a hospital is very important. Being on staff at a hospital provides a physician's patients with more access to services and treatment. For example, NYGH family physicians have direct lines to services within the hospital (such as radiology, paediatrics, and internal medicine) and are able to schedule appointments and tests in a seamless and timely fashion.

North York General has one of the largest complements of family physicians in a Canadian hospital. “NYGH has five active family physicians in the hospital and over 295 family physicians in the community,” says Dr. Eisen. “However that number is always changing as we continually recruit our recent graduates who open family practices to provide care for many more patients in our community.”

The North York Family Health Team is composed of physicians, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, social workers, mental health workers and other allied health professionals who collaborate to provide services depending on the needs of patients and their families.

If you are looking for a family physician within our community, please contact NYGH's Rudy and Rita Koehler Family Medicine Teaching Unit at 416-756-6980.

April 5, 2018

This article first appeared in the April 2018 issue of The Pulse, North York General Hospital's community newsletter. Subscribe to receive 10 issues per year.

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