Groundbreaking Report released on the State of Family Medicine in Toronto

May 14, 2019
The University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine has released a new report on the state of family medicine and the health of patients in the Greater Toronto Area.  The University of Toronto Family Medicine report is the first evidence-based, comprehensive picture of the role of family doctors in our healthcare system and provides new insights into the health and wellbeing of the citizens of Toronto and beyond.

Using information from UTOPIAN, a network of over 1700 family doctors serving over one million patients in communities and hospitals throughout the Greater Toronto Area and across Ontario, the report shows the role family medicine is playing in improving the health of our population and our communities.

At a time when our healthcare system is undergoing significant challenges and transformative change, the report is a reminder of the value and importance of family medicine as the foundation of our healthcare system.

“This report reinforces the findings of international studies which show that having family medicine as the basis of a country’s healthcare system keeps people healthier, reduces costs, and ensures more equitable access to care,” says Dr. Michael Kidd, Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto and one of the authors of the report. “As we start to roll out Ontario Health Teams, his report provides timely evidence and insights into the central role of family doctors, and the members of our teams, in our healthcare system.”

Each chapter in the report highlights a different aspect of family medicine. Beyond the treatment of common illnesses, many family doctors in Ontario deliver babies, work in emergency departments, provide palliative and end of life care, participate in research and innovation, and much more. Using data from the de-identified electronic medical record data of the nearly half a million patients, the report also provides insights into the work of family doctors.

“The data in this report confirmed a number of trends we are seeing in healthcare,” says Dr. Karen Tu, lead author of the report and a co-director of UTOPIAN. “Mental health and chronic diseases are being treated by family doctors far more frequently than ever before. We are also continuing to see high rates of obesity, so it’s key to find new ways to help family doctors treat and support patients with these concerns.”

The report also highlights areas of care where family doctors can play an even larger role. For instance, the report found that only 63 per cent of Indigenous people living in Toronto have a regular family doctor or nurse practitioner, compared to 90 per cent of the general population. The report also tackles issues like the lack of access to palliative care by marginalized populations in the Greater Toronto Area, the health concerns of refugees, and what family doctors are doing to address the ongoing opioid crisis.

“Not everyone knows or appreciates the breadth of services family doctors provide and the value family medicine brings to our health care system,” says Professor Kidd. “Family medicine provides the solution to overcrowded emergency departments, the challenge of hallway medicine in our hospitals, and the inequities we see in access to quality health care services. This report highlights the importance of family medicine as the foundation of a successful health care system and reinforces the need for further investment in primary care to ensure that quality health care is available to all Canadians.”