Canadian family doctors' roles and responsibilities toward outbound medical tourists: "Our true role is... within the confines of our system"

Rory Johnston, Valorie A. Crooks, Jeremy Snyder, Shafik Dharamsi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objective: To explore how Canadian family doctors understand their roles and responsibilities toward patients who seek health care abroad. Design: Six focus groups were held with family doctors across British Columbia to explore their experiences with and perspectives on outbound medical tourism. Focus groups were digitally recorded, transcribed, and subsequently thematically coded to discover common issues and themes across the entire data set. Setting: Focus groups were held with family doctors in 6 cities in British Columbia that provided representation from all provincial health authorities and a range of urban contexts. Participants: A total of 22 currently practising family doctors participated across the 6 focus groups, with groups ranging in size from 2 to 6 participants (average 4 participants). Methods: Thematic analysis of the transcripts identified cross-cutting themes that emerged across the 6 focus groups. Main findings: Participants reported that medical tourism threatened patients' continuity of care. Informational continuity is disrupted before patients go abroad because patients regularly omit family doctors from preoperative planning and upon return home when patients lack complete or translated medical reports. Participants believed that their responsibilities to patients resumed once the patients had returned home from care abroad, but were worried about not being able to provide adequate follow-up care. Participants were also concerned about bearing legal liability toward patients should they be asked to clinically support treatments started abroad. Conclusion: Medical tourism poses challenges to Canadian family doctors when trying to reconcile their traditional roles and responsibilities with the novel demands of private out-of-country care pursued by their patients. Guidance from professional bodies regarding physicians' responsibilities to Canadian medical tourists is currently lacking. Developing these supports would help address challenges faced in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1314-1319
Number of pages6
JournalCanadian Family Physician
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013


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