Nine Edmonton-area primary care networks (PCN) joined forces earlier in the week to launch a new website that aims to simplify the process for residents seeking a family physician.
The online tool lists PCN doctors in the geographical area from Fort Saskatchewan to Devon and Sherwood Park to Stony Plain who are accepting new patients.
Of the 870 physicians tied to the various PCNs, 115 are accepting new patients. Of that total, two practice at the Tudor Glen Medical Clinic and are members of the St. Albert and Sturgeon PCN.
“I think it will go a long way to actually giving residents the opportunity to do their own research in a more concise way,” said Brian Jackson, executive director of the St. Albert and Sturgeon PCN. “It’s not easy to go into a city and try and find physicians and then try and find physicians who are actually accepting new patients.”
The website will be updated quarterly by each of the nine PCNs, although Jackson said the St. Albert and Sturgeon PCN will provide more-frequent updates as needed.
He said the PCN is also looking at linking its website to the online tool for easier access for St. Albert and Sturgeon residents.
“I think updating it quarterly is enough to start with, but that would be our outside,” said Doug Craig, general manager of the Edmonton Southside PCN. “If we have reason to believe something should be changed sooner than that, then we certainly have the ability to do this.”
The Find a PCN Family Doctor website allows patients to narrow their search by location, gender or language preference.
“It brings those seeking a family physician together with doctors accepting new patients and it’s a convenient, easy, accessible tool that the public can use,” Craig said.
He said roughly 20 per cent of Alberta residents do not have a regular family doctor and said this is one way those residents can get attached to a physician.
According to the Mayor’s physician attraction task force conducted in 2010, 19.6 per cent of the St. Albert residents who responded to the survey did not have a family physician.
“The physicians that we do have do take patients when they have space,” Jackson said. “The life of a family physician is such that they’re working 12 to 14 hour days anyway. I think what we should be encouraging is support in primary care and also trying to find more physicians to actually work in this area.”
There are 15 medical clinics in the area, with a current total of 58 physicians. Of these, 55 are members of the St. Albert and Sturgeon PCN.
“There are family physicians out there who are taking new patients and we’re trying to make it easy for the population to access them,” Jackson said.
The online tool, accessed at www.edmontonareadocs.ca came with a price tag of just under $25,000, said Tamara Stecyk, communications specialist with the Edmonton Southside PCN.
It was funded by the Primary Care Initiative, a tri-part agreement with Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta Health Services and the Alberta Medical Association.
More than 3,000 people visited the webpage in the first 24 hours after its launch Wednesday. A pair of Edmonton doctors have since removed themselves from the website as they have filled up and are no longer accepting new patients.
A similar database already exists through the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta that lists doctors throughout the province who are accepting or possibly accepting new patients.
Nine St. Albert doctors were listed, but only three were accepting new patients — two are listed on the PCN website. A fourth St. Albert doctor – from the Grandin Medical Clinic – is accepting new patients, but was not listed on the CPSA website.