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Tips on How to Find a family doctor in Ontario as a Newcomer.

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

As a newcomer to Canada, understanding the health care system in your province can be challenging, as each province has a different system.


In this sense, it can also be complex when it comes to the next step, such as finding a family doctor in Ontario. However, having a family doctor is important for maintaining good health, especially when adjusting to a new country and lifestyle.


As I mentioned, each province has a different system; if you are interested in knowing how to get a health card in this province when you are on a work permit, be sure to check out How to Get a health card in Ontario.


In this blog post, we will cover how to find a family doctor in Ontario, the province where we live, the requirements to get one, recommendations, and the benefits of having a family doctor, considering that after two years, we decided to get one.


Table of contents



Doctor showing a small cute heart between his fingers

1. What is a Family Doctor?


A family doctor is a primary health care provider - the doctor you make an appointment with when you have a new health problem that is not urgent.


Visits to a family doctor are publicly funded, so you do not have to pay; you only need to present your Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card.


A family doctor can provide direct care for you and your family about the diagnosis and treatment of common illnesses and injuries, referral to health specialists who can help you with a specific condition, support in managing a chronic condition (such as diabetes or high blood pressure), prescribing medications, and regular check-ups including physical exams and routine screening tests (for example, for cancer).


Image showing a doctor taking the blood pressure to a patient
A family doctor is a primary health care provider.

2. What if I don't have a family doctor?


If you do not have a family doctor, no problem, you will receive medical care anyway, but you will probably have to go to a walk-in clinic and will be assigned a random doctor each time; this can result in a lack of continuity of care, as you may see different doctors each time you go. In addition, this can make it difficult to treat chronic illnesses or prevent health problems.


A family physician can get to know you and your health needs, leading to more personalized care. Without a family physician, you may not receive care tailored to your health needs and preferences.


Doctor preparing to attend a patient
If you do not have a family doctor, you will receive medical care anyway, but you will probably be assigned a random doctor each time.

That was our case; we went to the same walk-in clinic for two years, but each time we were assigned a different doctor, we went for specific health issues. As a result, we got the prescriptions we needed but did not have a trusting relationship with any professional.


Another thing is that you will probably have limited preventive care, such as periodic medical check-ups. Without a family doctor, you can miss out on necessary preventative care measures that could help catch health problems early. We noticed that as soon as we were included in a family doctor, we had many tests done, which had not happened before.



3. Benefits of having a family doctor in Ontario


Complementing the above, having a family physician in Ontario has many advantages. Here are some of them:

  • Preventive care: A family doctor can help you stay healthy by providing preventive care, such as regular check-ups, immunizations and health screenings.


  • Chronic disease management: If you have a chronic disease, such as diabetes or hypertension, a family doctor can help you manage your condition and prevent complications.


  • Referrals: A family physician can provide referrals and coordinate your care if you need to see a specialist or require additional testing.


  • Continuity of care: Having a family physician means you have a consistent source of medical care, which can lead to better health outcomes and a more efficient healthcare experience.


  • Personalized care: A family physician can get to know you and your health needs.


4. Requirements to get a family doctor in Ontario.


To get a family doctor in Ontario, you must meet specific requirements:

  • You must have a valid OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) card. You may need to apply for OHIP coverage. You can do this by going to Service Ontario and providing the necessary documentation. See more details in the blog post on How to get a health card as a worker in Ontario.


Patient (man) providing a card to the receptionist (woman)
OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) card is the card you need.

  • You will need to provide your medical records to the family doctor of your choice. This may include information about any pre-existing medical conditions or medications you take. Suppose you have previously visited a doctor or specialist. In that case, it is a good idea to request a copy of your medical records to bring with you to your first appointment, or if you have that information from back home, be sure to bring it with you so that it can be included in your medical records.


  • This is not a requirement for you, but you need to find a physician accepting patients, bringing us to the next point.


5. How to find a family doctor in Ontario?


Finding a family doctor in Ontario can seem overwhelming, but several resources are available to help you.

  • One option is to check with local walk-in clinics or hospitals. These centers may have a list of family physicians who are accepting new patients. You can also ask friends or family members who live in the area if they have a family doctor they would recommend.


Woman calling through a phone
You can ask for availability at the walk-in clinics in your area.

  • Another option to get started is Health Care Connect, a Department of Health and Long-Term Care program that helps you find a family doctor accepting new patients. You can access Health Care Connect online or by phone, and they will ask you a series of questions that will help you find a doctor in your area. Find more details on this page.


The option we used was the first one; we were always going to the same walk-in clinic, and one day they informed former patients that four doctors were accepting new patients; we selected the one who had seen us before and the one we felt most confident with and applied through their website.



6. Recommendations for finding a family doctor in Ontario.


When looking for a family doctor in Ontario, finding someone who is a good fit for you and your family is important. Here are some recommendations to keep in mind:


  • Location: Consider the location of the doctor's office and how easy it is for you to get to. Is it close to your home or place of work? Is it easily accessible by public transportation?


  • Availability: Make sure the doctor's availability fits your schedule. Do they have evening or weekend appointments? Can you get an appointment in time if you need it?


  • Specialty: If you have a pre-existing condition or a specific health problem, you may want to look for a doctor specializing in that area.


  • Personal connection: It's essential to feel comfortable with your primary care physician, so consider factors such as their communication style and good patient care when making your decision.


Doctor (woman) listening to a patient (woman)
It's essential to feel comfortable with your primary care physician.

7. I found a family doctor, and now what?


Understanding that each process may differ, I will tell you about our experience after finding the Family Doctor.


  • We saw the email from the walk-in clinic two blocks from our apartment, logged onto their website and registered as "I'm looking for a family doctor."


  • Once scheduled, we received a call from the medical assistant to confirm that we were looking for a family doctor. She assigned medical appointments for me and my partner separately with the doctor.


  • We attended our appointment, signed a document, and discussed our medical history with the doctor. Since we went to the same clinic for two years, some information was there, but we supplemented it with previous surgeries.


Doctor (man) asking for medical history to his patient (woman)
Be clear about your medical history to give to your Family Doctor.

I recommend you start compiling that information and create a list of the medical terminology, in case it is complicated for you. For example, we wrote down the date of diagnosis or surgery and the condition.


  • Next, the doctor gave us physical examination orders for another day. We went there separately, had our ears, lungs, mouth and nose checked, and were given orders for blood and urine tests. The doctors can assign other types of tests if they deem it necessary.


We are waiting for the results now, and when that happens, they will send us a message to schedule an appointment with the doctor to review the results.


So far, the process has worked smoothly; getting hours has not been challenging, and the exams have been routine.


 

I hope this post gives you an idea of what getting a family doctor is like. I wish you the best of luck in your search and that you find the best professional to meet your needs.

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