Sustainable products and practices provide social and economic benefits while protecting public health and the environment. Considering this, if you want to have one practice with respect to your health that is sustainable on many levels, having a full-service family doctor would accomplish this.

This occurred to me when I went to see my new family doctor for the first time. My family is in good health because we have had a great family physician for years – for all my children’s lives, in fact, and they are now adults. When my family doctor retired, he was able to find a young doctor to take over his practice. We are lucky.

Every single problem my sons have ever had has been cared for in the same family practice. My oldest son had no idea that he’d had one febrile seizure at age 2, but the note from the Emergency Room at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario had been scanned into his doctor’s electronic medical record. This was the only time he’d ever been to the emergency room. My youngest son never had to go to the Emergency Room at CHEO, having been able to rely on his family doctor’s afterhours clinic for every urgent medical problem he’d ever had. My husband can find out details about every specialist visit in one place. I have seen one specialist and the excellent care I’ve received has helped my family doctor manage the rest of my health care. You can imagine that, as a physician, I am a pretty picky health care consumer and I’ve never had any worries. The system has been seamless for me and my family and I know lots of doctors who cannot say the same thing.

While my family has the benefit of good genes and privilege, I am very much aware of how easily we could slip through the cracks of a medical system that great in emergencies but not as good with chronic care. In the end, however, it is those chronic illnesses that will result in complicated hospitalizations and recovery that never quite works unless you do have a good family doctor. My husband was hospitalized several years ago and there’s no doubt that it was the benefit of a family doctor that he was not rehospitalized.

Promoting health, improving the efficiency of care by streamlining and troubleshooting new health concerns to decrease their impact – all these activities, the work of a good family doctor, make our health care system sustainable.

The Government of Ontario is planning to organize health care in Ontario using Ontario Health Teams. The vision for Ontario Health Teams is that “the health care providers…will work as one coordinated team”. If these teams are going to be organized around existing groups of family doctors, such as my doctor is, then I’m all for Ontario Health Teams. My worry, however, is that some of the se Ontario Health Teams may centre around hospitals, where specialists often have more say than family physicians.

Many people in Ontario are like me and my family. My family doctor has ensured for many years that all my health care providers “work as one coordinated team.” The government says that it wants to bring all services together. Give family doctors access to all these services on behalf of their patients and watch what they would do. They would build a sustainable health care system.
While Ontario Health Teams will come to Ontario, everyone can have sustainable health care right now. If you don’t have one, get a family doctor. If you do have one, work with them. Keep your health! Save the health care system!

(Note: It’s a little blurry, but I love Medspeed‘s image for Sustainable Healthcare.)


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