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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2010 National Physician Survey: Complexity of care

The 2010 National Physician Survey, an ongoing research project gathering opinions of Canadian doctors, medical residents and students, was released last week.

The survey indicates that access to care is a key issue. The greatest factor doctors identified as the cause of increasing demands for their time was complexity of patient caseload (72% said it was an issue). Physicians are being asked to do more and more as health care in Canada changes.

Caring for aging patients with many chronic conditions is becoming a large part of physicians’ workload. In addition, family doctors now play a larger role in the use of diagnostic imaging (like MRI and CT scans) and are gatekeepers to prescription drugs.

As a result of this complex environment, the number of prescriptions written and the number of diagnostic tests ordered by family doctors are increasing. Research shows that drugs and diagnostic imaging have been inappropriately used and overused in Canada.

Understanding what influences doctors’ decisions is important to ensure resources are used appropriately. Family doctors are providing care in a challenging environment, and require better access to decision-support tools, including electronic medical-record systems. It’s also important to encourage doctors to follow clinical practice guidelines to help reduce inappropriate prescribing and use of resources.

This phase of the survey included data from physicians – the data related to med students and residents will be released in September and specialty-specific breakdowns in November. Join the NPS mailing list to get this info as soon as it is released.

Carolyn Young, Communications Coordinator, Media Relations, Health Council of Canada

Key Words: Primary Health Care, Access and Wait Times


  1. You state that physicians "require better access to decision-support tools, including electronic medical-record systems." While I agree with this statement, is there hard evidence to support that such tools result in better outcomes? Also, would most physicians agree with this statement? Seems that there are a lot people telling doctors what they need. I don't see any data in the NPS indicating that doctors want EMRs or feel that they will improve health outcomes.

    Michael Martineau

  2. But do all of the increasing number of things that doctors are being asked to do HAVE to be done by doctors? Or might some of them be done by other types of providers?

  3. 2007 national physician survey builds on sucess. Opening new areas of enquiry with additional questions.

    Sample Survey

  4. Greg – we agree. As our health care system deals with an aging population, collaborative health care teams are a good way to treat the increasing number of patients with chronic health conditions. Read our report on primary health care teams for more information(, or check out our video Teams work, patients win for an example of a multidisciplinary team that is working (

  5. Michael – Thanks for your question. You may be interested in this review of the impact of eHealth on the quality and safety of healthcare.

    You might also find this article from the CMAJ interesting, where Tom Closson, President and CEO, Ontario Hospital Association, argues doctors should face consequences if they fail to use EMRs.

    Thanks for your comment!