In a new survey, more than two-thirds of Canadians surveyed by CIBC think that they can’t find the right doctor.
“People are still looking for the right person,” says Scott Clark, senior vice president, research and data analysis, CIBC HealthCare.
“It’s still not a good picture for physicians.”
Dr. Scott Clark is chief economist at CIBC, and a key part of the research and development department at the Bank of Canada.
He says many Canadians still have some work to do.
“People are going to keep searching for the best doctor, and the best doctors will keep getting appointments, and that’s going to continue to drive down prices,” he says.
The survey asked Canadians whether they think they can find the “right” doctor.
While one-third said they could, the rest said they weren’t sure.
The CIBC survey found that just 17 per cent of Canadians say they can do their own research to get the right physician, while another 26 per cent say they are unsure.
Clark says that’s partly because the number of doctors has declined, which makes it hard to get an accurate picture of who’s the best.
“We’re not saying that we’re not going to get better at it, but the number [of physicians] has gone down,” he said.
And while the survey did find that the number and quality of Canadian medical schools continues to improve, the gap between graduates and the general population has widened.
More than one in three (34 per cent) of respondents who took the survey said they had no experience in medical school compared to just 7 per cent who had graduated, while 6 per cent said they’d been to medical school but never graduated.
Some Canadians are also wary of hiring doctors, partly because of the perceived stigma attached to being a doctor.
“There’s a feeling that you have to be a physician, and if you’re not, you’re a freak,” says Dr. Jules Verma, an assistant professor of medicine at Queen’s University.
“I think people really don’t want to go out and say, ‘I’m a doctor, you’ve got to go to medical schools.’
I think it’s a bit of a myth.””
A lot of people say, I’m a medical student, so I have to get a licence.
I’m going to take an exam and come back.”
But Verma says the survey didn’t tell the whole story.
“I think that a lot of doctors do feel that they’re being singled out, and they’re having to explain that to their patients.
They’re just not sure what to say, so they don’t say anything.””
It’s just not clear what’s the value of a doctor.”
Dr Clark agrees, and says many doctors are looking for ways to diversify their practice.
“You know, some of us have very specialized training in certain fields, or we have expertise in certain areas that may be in demand.
We’re really looking to find ways to add other areas of expertise,” he explains.”
But I do think there’s an opportunity to diversification, and I think that we need to be more selective in our training, as opposed to being stuck in the past and just doing the same things that we’ve been doing for so many years.”
Dr Verma also says the public needs to take more notice of how much more cost-effective it is to hire a family doctor than a private practitioner.
“It can make sense for a doctor to be in a rural area where there’s not a lot [of doctors].
If a family physician is going to be doing some of the same work that a physician would, it makes sense to have them,” he explained.”
If you’re talking about being in a community that has a lot more doctors, you don’t need a family practitioner.”