Improving medicare a good resolution

Ask anyone what they think about Canadian healthcare and the answer will likely take on the hushed and hallowed tones of something almost mystical.

Most of us feel fiercely loyal to our system of ‘universal healthcare’ and any political discussion of changing this system is sure to spark a public opinion firestorm.

Strangely, in spite of the intense national feeling about Canadian medicare, studies comparing ours with the health systems of other wealthy industrialized countries consistently tell a different story.

Generally, Canada ranks somewhere in the middle of other first world countries and near the very top for cost.

A recent US-based study published in Health Affairs surveyed general practice physicians in 10 countries and Canada scored mediocre results. More than 2,000 Canadian GPs participated and although over 80 percent reported satisfaction with their jobs, Canada lagged behind in many areas.

When it came to timely access for patients, Canada scored the last of all countries participating. Only 22 percent of Canadian doctors said it was possible for patients to get access to a next-day appointment – 86 percent could do this in France, 62 percent in Switzerland and 61 percent in the Netherlands.

Canadian doctors also scored low when it came to after hours care. Just 45 percent of doctors said there were arrangements in place for patients outside of regular business hours. This means Canadians are much more likely to use the emergency rooms of hospitals for medical issues that come up during evenings or weekends.

Canada also ranked second lowest of the 10 countries when it came to wait times to see specialists and third from the bottom for time taken to access diagnostic tests.

Although we have the technology to manage and share health information very efficiently, Canada had the lowest scores in these areas as well. It is still not the norm for doctors to use electronic records, for patients to be able to make appointments or answer questionnaires online or refill prescriptions online.

All of this shows Canada has a lot of room to improve when it comes to healthcare delivery. We have some of the best facilities and professionals in the world, but our system needs to be managed so that we can also offer the best and most efficient access to our population. We need to dramatically streamline things and communicate more effectively between care centers so that we can improve our overall health outcomes as well.

Time delays, miscommunication and lack of access really can result in worse outcomes for patients and that is what we need to prevent. We already have some of the best cancer outcomes in the world and I believe some system changes could improve our ranking in the areas of mental health, life expectancy, diabetes, heart disease and more.

 

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