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Health Policy

Doctors and professional autonomy

January 5, 2017

Professional autonomy of physicians is integral to the provision of patient care and to a well-functioning health care system. Professional autonomy means physicians can exercise professional judgment to make care decisions that best meet the needs of patients and it enables them to engage and participate in matters related to quality, patient safety, and health system improvement

With so many changes taking place in our health care system, the Council on Health Economics and Policy (CHEP) produced a policy statement on Professional Autonomy, which was approved by the Board at its December 2016 meeting. The statement is high level  in order to speak to the variety of issues pertaining to the professional autonomy of physicians, at both the individual and the collective level. 

Given that professional autonomy is fundamental to the patient-physician relationship and the relationships doctors have with their peers and colleagues, this policy statement relates to and expands upon concepts related to professional relationships as discussed in our 2013 Medical Professionalism policy paper.  

To achieve our shared aim of delivering high quality patient care, Doctors of BC encourages partners in health care delivery to recognize, support, and protect three fundamental principles:

  • Self-regulation and accountability: Physicians’ ability to engage in self-regulation, continuing professional development, and the formulation and review of standards and guidelines.
  • Decision making in medicine: Physicians’ ability to utilize professional judgment to make clinical decisions that best meet the needs of patients and determine practice settings that support each physician’s ability to fulfill his or her professional duty to care for patients.
  • Engagement and advocacy: Physicians’ ability to engage and participate in matters related to quality, patient safety, and health system planning and evaluation, including advocating for patients and health system improvement.

We hope you will take the time to read the full policy statement, which can be found here.

A graphic representation of Physician Autonomy can be found here

We want to know what you think about the policy statement. Please send your comments to communications@doctorsofbc.ca.  We will update this news item to reflect your thoughts and comments in the coming weeks.