Canadian Medical Association

Of the more than 6,700 physicians who took part in this year’s national CMA Physician Workforce Survey, 91% support a system of national licensure that would allow them to practise in all Canadian provinces and territories — strongly believing it would improve access to care for patients.

Support was strongest in the Atlantic provinces, particularly in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, where 84% of physicians said they are ‘very supportive’ of a national physician license. The numbers are not surprising, given the four Atlantic colleges of physicians and surgeons are already working together to streamline their approaches to licensing. Atlantic premiers also met earlier this year to discuss a form of regional licensing that would make it easier for physicians to practise and do locums across the region.

“The largest challenge is national licensing, but we weren’t content to wait and do nothing. So, we’re playing on the edges – dealing with telemedicine, locum portability and fast-tracking regular licenses. – Dr. Linda Inkpen, President, Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada, speaking at the 2019 CMA Health Summit

The physicians surveyed said they would seek out the following opportunities if a national licensure system was implemented:

  • 45% would do a locum
  • 39% would offer virtual care to patients in another jurisdiction
  • 30% would practise in multiple jurisdictions on an ongoing basis
  • 42% would practise temporarily in a rural or remote area in another jurisdiction

These results reinforce the CMA’s decision this spring to create a Virtual Care Task Force to identify the regulatory and administrative changes needed to support virtual care in Canada, and to allow physicians to deliver care to patients within and across provincial/territorial boundaries.

The task force is a joint initiative of the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

It recently created four working groups to examine how payment models, licensure and quality standards, interoperability and governance, and medical education will need to be adapted to support virtual care in Canada. A report is expected in early 2020.

“Virtual care has the power and ability to not only improve patient care — improve access to care — it can also make physicians’ practices more efficient.” – Dr. Gigi Osler, CMA past-president and co-chair of the Virtual Care Task Force

Other highlights from this year’s CMA Physician Workforce Survey include:

Digital health:

  • Respondents report that one in five patients (22.4%) can view their health record online, up from 8% in 2017.
  • Almost one-fifth (19.2%) of physicians allow their patients to consult them via email or text message. 

Professional satisfaction:                 

  • Three-quarters (73%) of physicians said they are very satisfied or satisfied with their career in medicine — similar findings to 2017.
  • Satisfaction with work-life integration, however, declined slightly, with 48% of respondents indicating being satisfied compared to 53% in 2017. Meanwhile, 30% said they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, compared to 26% in 2017. 

Physician workload:

  • 69% of physicians said they provide on-call services an average of 108 hours per month, down slightly from 2017.
  • In 2019, on-call hours were highest in Newfoundland and Labrador (146 hours per month) and lowest in Ontario (92 hours per month).

The CMA Physician Workforce Survey collects information from physicians on a wide range of topics relating to their practices in Canada. The 2019 version included questions on workload, practice settings, national licensure, use of information technology and satisfaction.

The survey was open from March 8 to May 5, 2019. Of the 52,633 members we can confirm received the survey, 6,762 — or 13% — responded. The survey is accurate to within 1.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all physicians in Canada been polled.

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