Olena Badham’s growing baby bump added a sense of urgency to her search for a family doctor. But thanks to a new website that connects Calgary-area residents with doctors who are taking patients, the 27-year-old found one just in time—two months before her due date. “I wanted a doctor really close to where I live so that when the baby is born I can get there quickly,” says Olena, a first-time mom-to-be.

Searching for a family doctor

She spent months searching for a regular family doctor and received care from a few different clinics before she was referred to the Find a Doctor service at calgaryareadocs.com. “I had been looking for a while but I always seemed to have bad luck. When I found out about the website, I clicked on a few options and I saw one I liked. I made an appointment right away. I was surprised how easy it was,” Olena says.

A 2014 Health Council of Canada report suggested about six per cent of Albertans—compared with the national average of seven per cent—don’t have a regular doctor or clinic where they go for care. Despite another 2014 study showing an all-time high number of Canadian doctors, anecdotes such as Olena’s suggest access is still an issue.

Find a Doctor service

Olena and her husband Scott are among the first patients to benefit from the Find a Doctor service, which launched in July 2015. Developed by seven local Primary Care Networks in partnership with Alberta Health Services, it is designed to make it quicker and easier for patients to find a family doctor.

Through the user-friendly website, patients search an interactive map that shows which PCN doctors in Calgary and area are accepting patients. Users can search areas close to work, family or wherever is most convenient. Patients can call the clinic immediately and request an appointment.

Currently, more than 250 family doctors listed on the website are accepting patients. Patients can also complete an online form for a PCN to find them a family doctor—an updated and streamlined version of the Need a Doctor service that’s existed since 2010.

Both options are also available by calling Health Link at 811. A province-wide online service is available at pcnpmo.ca.

Finding a new doctor

After using the website, Badham booked an appointment with Dr. Alana Luft, based at the Foothills Primary Care Centre. Research shows that when people have a family doctor and visit them regularly, they are healthier as they age and live longer.

“It really makes a difference when I know my patients. Having that relationship adds a lot of value,” says Luft, a member of Calgary Foothills PCN who began building a practice earlier this year with her colleague, Dr. Andrea Behie. “Not everyone needs an annual checkup in the traditional sense, but at any age there is benefit from having routine screening and preventative care. When new issues come up, having a relationship with a family practitioner who is familiar with your history and social context makes diagnosis and treatment planning easier.”

Growing up in Strathmore, Badham had the same family doctor throughout childhood and into her late teens. When she began searching for a new doctor as an adult, her September due date wasn’t the only consideration. “I was looking for someone to care for my children as they grow up,” Badham says. “My doctor is young so she will be able to stay with us for some time. I was looking for something long term. You get to know each other and she will get to know how I parent and what kinds of things I want. I definitely lucked out.”

Learn more about family doctors and health teams at Calgary Foothills PCN and the Find a Doctor service.