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How Many Patients Does a Family Doctor Have

April 9, 2024 • read

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How Many Patients Does a Family Doctor Have

Think of family doctors (also known as family physicians) as everyone’s first point of contact for non-emergency medical needs. In other words, they take care of a lot: They provide physical examinations (check-ups), referrals, vaccinations, and care for non-urgent health concerns—and do so for people of all ages.

How many patients does a family doctor in Canada typically have? 

According to a report from the charity Generation Squeeze, Canada has 124 family doctors for every 100K Canadians, which means every doctor has about 806 patients. But of course, that number varies across the country. Here’s the average amount of patients family doctors have in select provinces and territories in Canada:

  • Yukon: 592 
  • B.C.: 709
  • Quebec: 758
  • Ontario: 870
  • Nunavut: 1613

What is the optimal panel size (number of patients) for family physicians? 

Family doctors have a lot on their plate—they perform screenings, counselling sessions, routine chronic care, treatment of acute conditions, immunizations, drug prescriptions, and plenty of paperwork. A 2012 study by the University of California at San Francisco’s Center for Excellence in Primary Care that looked at the workload of family doctors found that if they work 43 hours a week for about 47 weeks a year (which is about average), they can provide care to roughly 980 patients. Of course, that number varies based on a doctor’s patient demographics and their health. For example, seniors have an increased need for healthcare services, so a doctor with an above-average number of senior patients may need to take on fewer patients overall.

How many patients does a family doctor see per day/week?

A 2020 Statista report found that primary care physicians (which includes family doctors, geriatric medicine doctors, internal medicine doctors, obstetricians, gynecologists, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants) in Canada saw between 70 and 125 patients per week. Providers in Newfoundland & Labrador, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan saw the most patients (120 or more) and Quebec and the Territories saw the least (70 patients) per week. According to another Statista report from 2022, these numbers are average compared to the number of patients primary care professionals see per week in other Western countries. Here’s a list of those numbers in select countries:

  • Germany: 254
  • Australia: 120
  • U.K.: 110
  • Canada: 102
  • U.S.: 77

How long is the average appointment with a family doctor?

A 2016 report by Medscape collected self-reported data from almost twenty thousand doctors and found that they, on average, spend 13-16 minutes with patients. Physicians working in critical and emergency care tend to have the shortest visits (a few minutes), and those providing physical exams tend to have longer ones (about 30 minutes).

It’s not uncommon, particularly after an appointment that lasts just a few minutes, for patients to feel rushed. While family practitioners are better than most specialists at beginning the visit with an open-ended question to allow patients to voice their concerns and share their experiences, doctors on average let a patient speak for just about 19 seconds—which may not feel like enough time for some people. That’s when telemedicine can be of further assistance. If you feel you didn’t have a chance to raise all your questions with your doctor, consider following up with a specialist via text or video call. We’re here to match you with an expert who can answer your remaining questions quickly and conveniently. 

Why does it take so long to book an appointment with a family doctor?

According to our survey findings from 2017, 20 percent of Canadians have waited seven days or more to see a family doctor, and 42 percent skipped seeing a doctor altogether simply because the wait time was too long. 

The reason is simple: As mentioned, Canada has 124 family physicians for every 100K Canadians, which means every family doctor has about 800 patients. What’s more, the average family doctor sees about 100 patients a week, plus they have other duties, like paperwork to take care of. That means their days, and often weeks are packed—so it makes sense that you’d have to wait a while for an opening in their calendar.

If you have a bothersome health issue and it’s not an emergency, consider telehealth. You can chat to a doctor in mere minutes and get answers to your pressing questions, putting you at ease and helping you get better fast. 

Why is there a shortage of family doctors in Canada?

About one in six Canadians don’t have access to a family doctor due to a shortage in Canada. Unfortunately, that’s not a problem that will be resolved anytime soon: Fewer medical students are choosing a career in family medicine year over year due to the new complexities of the practice. 

Plus, many physicians will be retiring or scaling back their services in the coming years. Almost one in six family doctors in Canada are 65 or older, meaning millions of Canadians are at risk of losing their access to primary care. According to a Globe and Mail analysis of statistics from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), seniors are the fastest-growing portion of family doctors, with New Brunswick and Quebec having the most. Therefore, people living in those provinces are more at risk of losing their family doctor in the coming years. 

What do you do if you can’t find a family doctor? 

Whether your doctor retired or you’re new to Canada, there are a few ways you can get a family doctor. Every province and territory has a website that explains how to find a one in that location. Here’s more information on finding a doctor in your area:

You can also ask someone you know for a recommendation, and call their doctor’s office to ask if they’re accepting new patients. Another option is contacting the community health centre in your area, or if you’re new to Canada, an immigrant-serving organization.

Family doctors are crucial for maintaining good health and receiving in-person care, but when you’re in a pinch, consider accessing medical care through telemedicine—it’s effective, quick and can help you get better fast. We have thousands of doctors in our network who can provide a diagnosis, treatment and prescription, and order a lab test or refer to a specialist.

What are the risks of not having a family doctor? 

Being your main point of contact with Canada’s healthcare system, family doctors help you reach optimal health, live longer, and have fewer visits to the hospital and emergency rooms. Family doctors are also particularly skilled at recognizing inconsistent patterns in your health and figuring out the cause, meaning they play a key role in proactive health. 

What’s more, family doctors can refer you to specialists, such as cardiologists and gynecologists, since Canadians generally need to be referred to see such doctors. Don’t have a family doctor but need a referral? That may not be a problem: Some specialists can be accessed through telemedicine. In fact, we can match you with a range of Canadian-licensed specialists—including dermatologists, psychologists, endocrinologists, gynecologists, and paediatricians—who can work with you to answer your nagging health questions and concerns.

What are alternatives for not having a family doctor?

Take every action to find a family doctor—get on the waiting list in your province or territory, and ask people you know if their doctor is accepting new patients. While you wait to get a family doctor, or if you have a family doctor but don’t want to wait or travel to see them, consider telemedicine—where there aren’t any waiting periods or travel requirements. We’re here to match you with a Canadian-licensed doctor to address a range of health woes you may be facing. Our many specialists are equipped to do it all: Provide a diagnosis, treatment, and prescription, and order a lab test or refer to a specialist.

Telehealth companies are a helpful resource for Canadians wanting or needing efficient and convenient care. By offering specialists via tech devices, Maple is adding additional capacity to the Canadian healthcare system and strengthening it as a whole, ensuring more Canadians are getting the care they need—and helping them feel better as quickly as possible.


Maple is safe and effective for common non-emergency issues, saving you time and offering ease of mind. If you believe you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or proceed to your nearest emergency room.

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