Free e-book: A patient’s guide to navigating Ontario’s health care system

Ontario’s health care system can feel like a maze. The system has become so complex that even people who work in it every day often struggle to navigate it. So for members of the public – who often encounter the system at a time of crisis – it can be hopelessly confusing and frustrating.

In response, some hospitals have introduced patient navigators, who act as guides through the labyrinth of health care services. They help connect patients with the right doctors, access available resources and therapies, improve continuity of care and get answers to patients’ questions about their diagnoses.

Of course, many patients have the same questions and find themselves facing the same challenges in navigating the system. In response, Lisa Priest, who was manager of community engagement and patient navigation at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, launched the Personal Health Navigator blog, hosted on Healthy Debate, in 2012. Paul Taylor took over the Personal Health Navigator when he joined Sunnybrook in 2013.

Over the past few years, Lisa and Paul have answered nearly 100 patient questions, and their answers have been viewed over 37,000 times.

We believe the Personal Health Navigator is an important resource for Ontarians. In collaboration with Healthy Debate’s Citizens’ Advisory Council, we have selected 33 articles for this e-book that span a variety of topics, from family doctors to cancer and surgery.

We hope you find this collection interesting and useful. This e-book is provided free of charge, so please feel free to share it with friends, family and co-workers (we are required by Amazon to charge $0.99 plus tax for the Kindle version of this e-book – proceeds will be donated to the St. Michael’s Foundation in support of Healthy Debate).

If you have questions about your doctor, your hospital or how to navigate the health care system, please send them to

Download the e-book for Kindle

Download the e-book for Kobo

Download the e-book for iBooks (iPad and iPhone)

Download the e-book for Google Play

Download the e-book for Google Books

Download the e-book as a PDF by clicking on the image below:

Personal Health Navigator: A patient's guide to Ontario's health care system

Personal Health Navigator: A patient’s guide to Ontario’s health care system

You can always find our e-book (along with our health system primers for board members) on the new Publications section of our website.

The comments section is closed.

  • Ruth Conde says:

    Had cortisone shots on my knees a
    month and a half ago. Doc said I have arthritis in them..its still been hurting with burning and pulling sensation causing me to limp as I have to walk. Have appt. again next week. Will knees surgery be told to me that I will have to have done?. Is it safe and recommend?

  • hclips says:

    Cancer Finances  offers an online-tool to help guide you through some key topics that may impact your financial situation. Whether you are newly diagnosed, or many years past active treatment, this site can help you navigate finances after cancer. 

  • Pat says:

    Just went through mammogram and biopsy. It’s cancer did a lumpectomy and had 1node tested. It came back negative. Border also negative. Now waiting to have radiation therapy possibly in 3 weeks. Mammograms have been done every 2 years, come back clear. no family history of breast cancer at all but was a smoker for over 40 years. Quit for 2 years with the patch went through a divorce started up again. Tried acupuncture,laser now trying hypnosis. Done the zyban, champix.

  • Linda Parsons says:

    Still fighting breast cancer and i am winning

  • Stephen T. says:

    I live next door to my clinic. I can rarely access my family doctor. My last visit she sent me to a specialist for digestive disorders. ( rectal surgeon) I keep getting infections requiring antibiotics. (5 this year)The specialist she sent me to was not a good match for me. He examined me roughly, causing me severe pain during the exam. Three days after his exam I developed another bad infection. He really scared me and hurt me emotionally and physically. He sent me on my way with the same advice my G.P. has given me. I ended up this month going to a rural hospital with lower left abdominal pain so the doc tested my urine and blood. I had blood in my urine and he said to follow up with my G.P ,with his diagnoses of diverticulitis;this is only weeks since I had my gallbladder removed. I suffer with severe depression,anxiety and I am barely able to function mentally with worry. Its destroying my life and now i have to wait weeks to maybe see my doctor. I am so lost and feel like I am dying and will leave my family of 5 without their main source of income. Please help.

  • Cathy Faulds says:

    Thank you for this wonderful work. Our Government needs to work with physicians to help patients navigate and STEWARD our health care system if it is to be sustained and remain universal. This coupled with campaigns like Choosing Wisely are excellent beginnings.

  • Christina Spencer, Patients Canada says:

    Thanks to Paul Taylor, Lisa Priest and everyone at Healthy Debate for attending to the many questions and concerns from patients, caregivers and their families.

    • Ruth Conde says:

      Had cortisone shot in both my knees 2 months ago. Knees still back in pain. I have burning pulling pain that’s hurts and make me limp walking. I have an appointment again to be seen next week. Will I be needing knee surgery?


Jeremy Petch


Jeremy is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, and has a PhD in Philosophy (Health Policy Ethics) from York University. He is the former managing editor of Healthy Debate and co-founded Faces of Healthcare

Republish this article

Republish this article on your website under the creative commons licence.

Learn more