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March 11, 2024 • read

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Why Do I Need a Family Doctor?

We care about your health and we’re dedicated to improving healthcare access across Canada. Right now, a country-wide physician shortage means millions of Canadians don’t have a family doctor. And, those that do aren’t always able to see them in a timely manner. You could find yourself waiting for days or weeks to see your GP for a simple prescription or even an urgent medical issue.

We know that family physicians are important for your overall health and well-being. We also believe that waiting for care doesn’t have to be the default. Here’s why you need a family doctor and what to do if you find yourself without access to one when you need it.

Why do I need a family doctor?

It’s possible to get high-quality medical care without a family doctor, and telemedicine can be an incredible tool for this. We’re committed to connecting you with Canadian-licensed doctors whether you need a diagnosis and treatment, or a prescription. The same goes for ordering lab tests or booking specialist appointments.

So, why have a family doctor if virtual care can do all this? Telemedicine is a great way to bridge gaps in your medical care. However, some conditions are best treated in-person.

Family doctors are crucial for helping to manage your health over time. If you have a chronic medical issue like asthma or psoriasis, regular touchpoints with your GP help to keep tabs on your condition. If your GP notices changes, they can adjust any medications you take or refer you to a specialist for more help. They can also order any lab work they think you need.

Managing a chronic condition alone without the support of a family physician can feel overwhelming. Our platform can help you keep track of the details by capturing your medical information in one place. Every visit you have with one of our providers is securely stored in your patient portal, along with your health profile. That means your medical records are safe, secure, and available to you in seconds — wherever and whenever you need them.

Even if you’re perfectly healthy you still need a family doctor. Your relationship with your GP and their knowledge of your medical history helps them spot shifts in your health. This can alert you to small issues before they have a chance to turn into something more serious.

And of course, your family doctor is there for all your acute medical needs — like a sudden bout of food poisoning or when you get pinkeye.

How family doctors help with preventative care

Family doctors are also rockstars at keeping you healthy in other ways. They make sure you’re up-to-date on routine vaccinations and help you maintain good reproductive health via STI screenings and regular Pap tests.

As you get older, the preventative care your doctor offers becomes even more important. Bone density testing, hearing and vision tests, and screening for diabetes and cancer are just some of the reasons you need to visit your physician’s office as you age. And, your GP can alert you when you’re due for these crucial screenings.

How to get medical care if you don’t have a GP

If you don’t have a family physician, chances are good you’ve taken time off work to visit your local walk-in. Walk-in clinics can help with non-urgent medical care, but they often get quite busy. In many cases, snagging a same-day appointment means lining up before your clinic opens. Even then there’s no guarantee. Depending on the time you arrive, you may have to return the following day to get the care you need. 

Another alternative for those without a family doctor is the emergency room. However, as the name suggests, ERs prioritize emergencies. Visiting one for a non-urgent concern like strep throat or a birth control prescription likely means a lengthy wait, no matter how pressing the issue feels to you.

This is where virtual care makes a difference. Our telehealth platform provides 24-hour access to Canadian-licensed doctors, within minutes. Our doctors can diagnose and treat a variety of non-urgent medical conditions, prescribe needed medications, and order lab work. You can also book an appointment with a number of specialists, no referral necessary.

How to get a prescription without a family doctor

Maintaining good health means addressing illnesses and infections. Prescription medications are a key tool for this — from managing diabetes to treating urinary tract infections. Even the healthiest among us needs one from time-to-time.

When you need this sort of help, your GP is usually the first place you turn. But for Canadians without a family doctor, getting a prescription can become incredibly difficult. Many have no choice but to go to the ER or wait for hours at the walk-in for a doctor to write them one.

Getting necessary and potentially life-saving medications shouldn’t be so difficult.

We want to make getting the prescription medication you need as easy as possible. Within minutes, one of our doctors can address your request. If they assess that you need a prescription, they can send it to you electronically or forward it to the pharmacy of your choice. From there, you can pick it up or have it delivered to your door, for free. Whether you’re dealing with the discomfort of a UTI at work or looking to refill your thyroid medication, we’re here for you.

How to find a family doctor in Canada

The best place to start your search for a family doctor is to apply to your local provincial or territorial patient registry. It can take a while to match you with a doctor, so it’s a good idea to stay proactive with your search while you wait.

Here are some other avenues to help speed up your search for a GP:

  1. If you’re a newcomer to Canada, contact a settlement services provider for help finding a family doctor.
  2. Search for doctors in your area and call to see if any are accepting new patients.
  3. Tap into your social networks and social media community groups to ask for GP recommendations.
  4. Contact your local hospital to see if they’re affiliated with a family health team or if they know of any doctors accepting new patients.
  5. Connect with hospital-affiliated family health teams in the spring to see if any of their family medicine residents are entering practice nearby and taking new patients.
  6. Assess if you fall within the target area or demographic of your local CHC.
  7. Connect with a healthcare provider through Maple for on-demand 24/7 virtual care.
  8. Tried everything and still can’t find a family doctor? Speak to our care concierge for help finding in-person care near you.

We’re committed to making healthcare accessible for Canadians across the country by offering flexible, on-demand, high-quality care. When you need to see a doctor, we’re here for you. Day or night.

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