A Descriptive Framework of Physician Health Services in Canada


A Descriptive Framework for Physician Health Services in Canada was developed by the Tricoastal Consortium for the Canadian Medical Foundation (CMF). This framework was initiated by the CMF after being identified as a key strategic project for advancing physician health in Canada.

A Descriptive Framework for Physician Health Services: Executive Summary

The work of physicians is both stressful and safety-sensitive. Each province and territory in Canada has evolved unique approaches to providing services that not only mitigate the risks of medical practice on the health of physicians, but also reduce the impact of doctors’ health on their ability to practice safely.

Our country is large and diverse, and the services required to mitigate these risks (referred to in this document as physician health services) are sometimes complex. As a result, their independent evolution in multiple locations to suit local needs has presented challenges to those seeking to share, cooperate and collaborate on a national scale. Service providers in different locations may use identical terms to mean completely different things, or they may use entirely different terms to mean the same thing. This project is an attempt to address this challenge by creating a common language for the description of physician health services in Canada.

Most jurisdictions in Canada have chosen to bring a number of physician health services together under the banner of a Physician Health Program, or PHP. These PHPs have a great deal of diversity in their organizational structure, the range of services they provide, their mechanisms of accountability to their stakeholders, and the manner in which they pursue activities such as scholarship and outreach (which some do not see as central to their primary missions).

Although PHPs are not the only providers of physician health services in Canada, they are certainly important in this capacity. Their coming together, and realizing that they lacked precise definitions of their core services, led to the conception of this project.

The Canadian Medical Foundation took the initiative to fund an ad hoc working group (The Tricoastal Consortium) to lead the necessary work, and with the support of the Canadian Medical Association, and the active collaboration of the Forum of Canadian Physician Health Programs, the project was completed – this Descriptive Framework was born. It defines of 17 core physician health services (and modes of activity within each service).

Application of the framework makes it possible to generate an integrated overview of Canada’s PHPs, including their organizational structures, accountability mechanisms, and some of the related non-core activities in which they engage.

This project is an important achievement in its own right, but it is also starting point for many other activities that might build on the framework’s foundation. By putting a definitional “outer boundary” on the diversity in local solutions to common national problems, this project has set the stage for further collaboration on a national and even international scale. In response to this opportunity, one aspect of the project was to ascertain and summarize the ways in which participants envision using the final product. Those potential uses are summarized in a companion report.

The complete “A Descriptive Framework for Physician Health Services in Canada” document may be viewed here.