Family physicians continue providing care despite burnout, COVID-19 challenges
(Mississauga, ON) A new series of polls commissioned by the College of Family Physicians of Canada™ (CFPC) find that despite COVID-19-related challenges, Canada’s family physicians continue to provide access to care with both in-person and virtual appointments. The public poll featured responses from 2,005 adults in Canada, and the family physician poll featured responses from 851 CFPC family physician members.
Almost nine in 10 patients and more than nine in 10 family doctors said in-person appointments are available but noted there are some restrictions on what conditions or circumstances demand an in-person visit. The overall satisfaction with access to care remained strong with close to 80 per cent of public and family doctor respondents reported being satisfied.
Virtual care continues to play a major role, with 67 per cent of patients reporting they received care over the telephone and nine per cent through video-based technology. About three in four patients were satisfied with their experience receiving care virtually. Physicians themselves reported about one third of their time is spent providing virtual care.
“It is important to acknowledge that family physicians had to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances throughout the pandemic,” says the CFPC’s Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Francine Lemire, MD CM, CCFP, FCFP, CAE, ICD.D. “Canada’s family doctors must receive supports to continue caring for their patients—based on these surveys, increased administrative support and more available providers are urgently required.”
When asked about improvements that are needed to accessing care from their family doctor, the most prevalent response for 29 per cent of patients was that no improvements were necessary, although more in-person availability, reduced wait times, and longer practice hours were noted. Noteworthy is that 63 per cent of patients who were unable to access in-person care from a family physician did not seek alternate options, while 22 per cent reported using a walk-in clinic, and 12 per cent visited an emergency department.
The ongoing provision of access to a family physician during the challenging circumstances of the pandemic leads to increasing levels of burnout for family physicians with more than half reporting either being burnt out and in need of a break or exhausted but coping. Help with administrative workload, better work-life balance, and an increased supply of health care providers are cited as top supports needed.
The CFPC stresses the need to strengthen the primary care system to meet the evolving needs of our communities. Applying the principles of the Patient’s Medical Home vision to expand the availability of collaborative, integrated, comprehensive care will address many of the current challenges. The CFPC is calling on the federal government to direct a portion of the announced $3.2 billion investment into the recruitment and retention of new health care providers to lighten the administrative load faced by the current practitioners.
About the College of Family Physicians of CanadaThe College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) is the professional organization that represents more than 42,000 members across the country. The College establishes the standards for and accredits postgraduate family medicine training in Canada’s 17 medical schools. It reviews and certifies continuing professional development programs and materials that enable family physicians to meet certification and licensing requirements. The CFPC provides high-quality services, supports family medicine teaching and research, and advocates on behalf of the specialty of family medicine, family physicians, and the patients they serve.
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