September 28, 2017 — The number of physicians in Canada continued trending upward in 2016, with the physician rate of growth outpacing that of the population in Canada for the 10th year in a row. Between 2012 and 2016, growth in the number of physicians was almost triple that of the Canadian population.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), there were more than 84,000 physicians in Canada last year, or 230 per 100,000 population — the highest proportion ever.

CIHI’s report Physicians in Canada, 2016 updates information on the physician supply, payments to physicians and the services they provide to Canadians. It shows that total clinical payments to physicians increased 3.4% over the previous year to $25.7 billion. Growth over the last few years has been almost half of the average annual growth of the past decade (6.2%).

The report also shows average gross clinical payment per physician in 2015–2016 was $339,000, an increase of less than 1% from 2014–2015. For most physicians, gross clinical payments cover the costs of running their practices. 

Facts and figures

  • In 2015–2016, the average gross clinical payment per physician ranged from $262,000 in Nova Scotia to $380,000 in Alberta. 
  • Nationally, the average gross clinical payment to family medicine physicians decreased by nearly 1% in 2015–2016 to $275,000. The average payment to medical specialists (e.g., cardiologists, rheumatologists, neurologists) increased 1.5% to $347,000, and the average payment to surgical specialists increased 1.8% to $461,000.
  • Between 2012 and 2016, the number of female physicians increased by 21%, while the number of male physicians increased by 6.1%.
  • The proportion of recent medical graduates (10 years or less since graduation) increased from 16.2% in 2012 to 20% in 2016.
  • In 2016, about 54% of physicians younger than 40 were female; for physicians age 40 and older, the proportion was 36%.
  • More physicians moved to Canada than abroad, resulting in a net gain of 58 physicians from international migration in 2016.


“Although the supply of physicians and the total payments for their services continue to grow, over the last few years we’ve observed a reduction in the strength of that growth compared with earlier periods. This type of information is important, because by studying the supply, payments and activities of physicians we can better understand this critical part of the health workforce, whose decisions drive the utilization of most major categories of health care spending in this country.”

— Geoff Ballinger, Manager, Physician Information, Canadian Institute for Health Information

About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on Canada’s health systems and the health of Canadians.

We provide comparable and actionable data and information that are used to accelerate improvements in health care, health system performance and population health across Canada. Our stakeholders use our broad range of health system databases, measurements and standards, together with our evidence-based reports and analyses, in their decision-making processes. We protect the privacy of Canadians by ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of the health care information we provide.

Media contact
Riley Denver