Could my GP ‘unregister’ me if I go to a walk or use Maple?

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Among the many challenges facing Ontario’s health care system, some patients in the province are concerned that visiting a walk-in clinic or using virtual care services could affect relationships with their family doctor they have

A user took to Reddit to explain their concern after using the online medical service Maple to get medication, as their primary doctor was on vacation.

“It didn’t occur to me at the time that this might qualify as a ‘walk-in’ trip,” wrote Final-Buffalo-4081. “I’m now wondering if this could take me away from my GP. “

Rostering is a practice used in family medicine, where the patient registers with a family practice, physician or team as the primary care provider. The government then pays an annual interest rate with the government to provide the care, rather than each time. That patient also has access to the practice’s other services available, such as nurses.

So when a registered patient seeks treatment elsewhere, such as a walk-in clinic, their primary doctor is responsible for the visit.

On the Reddit post, many shared their frustration that a patient could be put off for seeking care outside of their family doctor, especially when it’s difficult to get in for an appointment.

“First available appointment with my GP is 31 days away,” wrote Kindly-Raspberry-661. “I don’t ‘decide’ to go for a walk with my issues, I have to.”

“You need to see a doctor, but you can’t get into your doctor because they’re on vacation or they’re booking three weeks out until you go in for a walk-in ,” wrote small_town_gurl. “But your doctor then takes you off his patient list because you went to a walk-in because you couldn’t get into their office. “

An expert says ‘unsubscribing’ is unlikely after one walk-in

Michael Carter is a professor with the Center for Healthcare Engineering at the University of Toronto. He says if a patient has to make a walk-in visit or pay out-of-pocket for a service like Maple because their doctor isn’t available, they shouldn’t be forced to. automatically leave their family clinic.

“Going to a private clinic or a walk-in doesn’t mean you’re disenrolled,” he told Yahoo Canada. “OHIP may go back to the GP and deduct the cost from their monthly check. Deregistration will only happen if it is done regularly, because it will cost the doctor more than what they are getting from the government.”

He says most GPs probably get a few dozen charges a month as a result of patients visiting walk-in clinics, but they don’t tend to think much of it. off if it doesn’t happen regularly.

Going to a private clinic or walk-in does not mean you are deregistered.

“I suspect that a family doctor would have to say that the client is abusing his rostering and that it would have to affect him a lot,” he said.

Despite Ontario’s crumbling health care system, people who need to be seen urgently may turn to a private service like Maple for immediate care. The virtual care provider, which consists of several specialized doctors, allows patients to consult a doctor 24 hours a day. The service is covered by the benefits programs of some employers, otherwise the patient has to pay for it out of pocket. This is a price many are willing to pay despite long emergency room wait times, doctors with limited access, or the inability to find a family doctor in the first place.

In September 2022, the College of Physicians of Ontario found that nearly 2.3 million Ontarians did not have a family doctor—up from 1.8 million in March 2020. That number is expected to rise to more than 4 million by 2026.

Stethoscope and clipboard seen inside a doctor's office.

Stethoscope and clipboard seen inside a doctor’s office.

Reddit offers reassurance

In the Reddit thread, one person assured the original poster that they shouldn’t stress about seeking medical help outside of their primary doctor, especially if it was out of pocket .

“It’s up to the doctor,” wrote SourWineDenial. “Some don’t care, and just eat the fines when their patients go to care elsewhere. Some will simply unregister if there is a pattern of someone walking in without even trying to make an appointment with their own doctor. A really strict guy might unregister after one instance, but that’s not unlikely.”

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