The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to provide the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance this pre-budget submission. It provides recommendations to address major pan-Canadian challenges to the health of Canadians: improve how we provide care to our growing elderly population; improve access to primary care across the country; increase digital health literacy to take advantage of the benefits of new health information technologies; and better prepare for and mitigate the health impacts of a changing climate on Canadians.
Health systems across the country are currently struggling to meet the needs of our aging population. People aged 85 years and over—many of whom are frail—make up the fastest growing age group in Canadai.
Provincial and territorial health care systems (as well as care systems for populations falling under federal jurisdiction) are facing many challenges to meet the needs of an aging population. Canadians support a strong role for the federal government in leading a national seniors strategy and working with the provinces to ensure that all Canadians have the same level of access and quality of services, no matter where they live.
The 2017 federal/provincial/territorial funding agreement involving $6 billion over 10 years to improve access to home care services is a welcomed building block. But without greater investment in seniors care, health systems will not keep up. To be truly relevant and effectively respond to Canadians’ present and future needs, our health care system must provide integrated, continuing care able to meet the chronic and complex care needs of our growing and aging population. This includes recognizing the increased role for patients and their caregivers in the care process.
The federal government must ensure transfers are able to keep up with the real cost of health care. Current funding levels clearly fail to do so. Health transfers are estimated to rise by 3.6% while health care costs are expected to rise by 5.1% annually over the next decade.ii
The federal government ensure provincial and territorial health care systems meet the care needs of their aging populations by means of a demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer.iii
Providing care often comes with a financial cost such as lost income due to the caregiver’s withdrawal from the workforce to provide care. There are also increasing out-of-pocket costs for both caregivers and care receivers for health care-related expenses—privately covered expenditures on home and long-term care for seniors are projected to grow by an average of 5.8 per cent annually—nearly 1.5 times the pace of household disposable income growth. While the federal government offers tax credits that can be claimed by care receivers/caregivers, they are significantly under-utilized. While representing a significant proportion of caregivers, those with low or no income receive little to no federal government support through these programs. Middle-income earners also receive less than those earning high incomes.
The federal government create a Seniors Care Benefit that would be an easier, fairer and more effective way to support caregivers and care receivers alike.iv
Access to Care
Since the mid-1990s, the federal and provincial/territorial governments (FPT) have provided sustained leadership in promoting and supporting the transformation of primary care in Canada. In 2000, the First Ministers concluded the first of three Health Accords in which they agreed to promote the establishment of primary health care teamsv supported by a $800 million Primary Health Care Transition Fund (PHCTF) funded by the federal government, but jointly governed. The PHCTF resulted in large-scale sustained change in primary care delivery models in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta with interest in other jurisdictions as well.
However, the job is far from finished. Across Canada, access to primary care is challenging for many Canadians with a persistent shortage of family physicians. In 2017, 4.7 million Canadians aged 12+ reported they did not have a regular health care provider.vi Even those who have a regular provider experience wait time issues.
There has been widespread interest in primary care models since the development of the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s (CFPC) vision document Family Practice: The Patient’s Medical Home (PMH), initially launched in 2011vii and recently re-launched.viii The model is founded on 10 pillars depicted in Figure 1.
Figure 1. The Patient’s Medical Home, 2019
The updated model places increased emphasis on team-based care and introduces the concept of the patient’s medical neighborhood that sets out connections between the primacy care practice and all delivery points in the surrounding community. While comprehensive baseline data are lacking, it seems
safe to conjecture that most Canadians are not enrolled in a primary care model that would measure up to the model’s 10 pillars.
The federal government, in concert with provinces and territories, establish a targeted fund in the amount of $1.2 billion to support a new time-limited Primary Health Care Transition Fund that would build on the success of the fund launched in 2000 with the goal of widely introducing a sustainable medical home model across jurisdictions. This would include the following key elements:
Age-sex-weighted per capita allocation across the provinces and territories;
Joint governance of the FPT governments with meaningful stakeholder engagement;
Respect for the Canada Health Act principles;
Common objectives (e.g., modeled on the CFPC Patient’s Medical Home framework);
Canada and most industrialized countries will experience a digital health revolution over the next decade with great potential to improve patient and population health. Digital health can be described as the integration of the electronic collection and compilation of health data, decision support tools and analytics with the use of audio, video and other technologies to deliver preventive, diagnostic and treatment services that promote patient and population health.
While most Canadian physicians’ offices and health care facilities are now using some form of electronic record keeping and most households have internet access, there remains a large deficit in using virtual care, both within jurisdictions and across provincial/territorial boundaries. Recently the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada established a Virtual Care Task Force to identify opportunities for digital health to improve health care delivery, including what regulatory changes are required for physicians to deliver care to patients within and across provincial/territorial boundaries.
To take full advantage of digital health capabilities it will be essential for the population to have a functional level of digital health literacy: the ability to seek, find, understand and appraise health information from electronic sources and apply the knowledge gained to addressing or solving a health problem.ix This also includes the capability of communicating about one’s health to health care professionals (e.g., e-consults), self-monitoring health (e.g., patient portals) and receiving treatment online (e.g., Web-based cognitive behavioral therapy).x
There are no current data available on health literacy in Canada, let alone digital health literacy. One basic barrier to achieving digital health literacy is access to, and usage of the Internet, which has been termed the “digital divide” (e.g., older Canadians and low income households are less likely to have Internet access).Error! Bookmark not defined.
In 2001 the federal government established the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC). Its mandate includes informing consumers about their rights and responsibilities in dealing with financial institutions and providing information and tools to help consumers understand and shop for financial products and services.xi In 2014 the FCAC appointed a Financial Literacy Leader who has focused on financial literacy, including activities such as conducting financial capability surveys and the development of a National Strategy for Financial Literacy.xii
Considering the anticipated growth of digital/virtual care it would be desirable to understand and promote digital health literacy across Canada. What the federal government has done for financial literacy could serve as a template for digital health literacy.
The federal government establish a Digital Health Literacy Secretariat to:
Develop indicators and conducting surveys to measure and track the digital health literacy of Canadians;
Develop tools that can be used both by Canadians and their health care providers to enhance their digital health literacy; and
Assess and make recommendations on the “digital divide” that may exist among some population sub-groups due to a lack of access to information technology and lower digital health literacy.
Climate Change and Health
Climate change is the public health imperative of our time. There is a high level of concern among Canadians about their changing climate. A 2017 poll commissioned by Health Canada demonstrates a high level of concern among Canadians about their changing climate: 79% were convinced that climate change is happening, and of these, 53% accepted that it is a current health risk, with 40% believing it will be a health risk in the future.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified air pollution and climate change as one of the biggest threats to global health. Health care professionals see first-hand the devastating health impacts of our changing climate including increased deaths from fine particulate matter air pollution and increased heat-related conditions. Impacts are most common in vulnerable populations such as adults over 65 years, the homeless, urban dwellers and people with a pre-existing disease.
Canada’s health care system is already treating the health effects of climate change. A lack of progress in reducing emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens both human lives and the viability of Canada’s health system, with the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services, not to mention the economic and social costs. The federal government must provide leadership to deal with the impact already being felt in Canada and around the world.
The federal government make strong commitments to minimize the impact of climate change on the health of Canadians by:
Ensuring pan-Canadian and inter-jurisdictional coordination to standardize surveillance and reporting of climate-related health impacts such as heat-related deaths, develop knowledge translation strategies to inform the public, and generate clinical and public health response plans that minimize the health impacts;
Increasing funding for research on the mental health impacts of climate change and psychosocial adaptation opportunities; and
Ensuring funding is provided to the health sector to prepare for climate change impacts through efforts to increase resiliency (i.e., risk assessments, readiness to manage disease outbreaks, sustainable practice).
i Statistics Canada. The Chief Public Health Officer's Report on the State of Public Health in Canada, 2014: Public Health in the Future. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2015. Available: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cphorsphc-respcacsp/2014/chang-eng.php; (accessed 2016 Sep 19).
ii The Conference Board of Canada. Meeting the care needs of Canada’s aging population. Ottawa: The Conference Board; 2018.
iii Canadian Medical Association. Meeting the demographic challenge: Investments in seniors care. Pre-budget submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. August 3, 2018. https://policybase.cma.ca/documents/Briefpdf/BR2018-16.pdf
iv The Conference Board of Canada. Measures to Better Support Seniors and Their Caregivers. March 2019. https://www.cma.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/health-advocacy/Measures-to-better-support-seniors-and-their-caregivers-e.pdf
v Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. News release – First Ministers’ meeting communiqué on health. September 11, 2000. http://www.scics.ca/en/product-produit/news-release-first-ministers-meeting-communique-on-health/. Accessed 04/22/19.
vi Statistics Canada. Primary health care providers, 2017. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/82-625-x/2019001/article/00001-eng.pdf?st=NGPiUkM5. Accessed 04/21/19.
vii College of Family Physicians of Canada. A vision for Canada. Family Practice: the patient’s medical home. http://www.cfpc.ca/uploadedFiles/Resources/Resource_Items/PMH_A_Vision_for_Canada.pdf. Accessed 04/22/19.
viii College of Family Physicians of Canada. The patient’s medical home 2019. https://patientsmedicalhome.ca/files/uploads/PMH_VISION2019_ENG_WEB_2.pdf. Accessed 04/21/19.
ix Norman C, Skinner H. eHealth literacy: essential skills for consumer health in a networked world. J Med Internet Res 2006;8(2):e9. Doi:10.2196/jmir.8.2.e9.
x Van der Vaart R, Drossaert C. Development of the digital health literacy instrument: measuring a broad spectrum of health 1.0 and health 2.0 skills. J Med Internet Res. 2017;19(1):e27. Doi:10.2196/jmir.6709.
xi Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. About FCAC.
xii Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. National Strategy for Financial Literacy. Phase 1: strengthening seniors’ financial literacy. https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/canada/financial-consumer-agency/migration/eng/financialliteracy/financialliteracycanada/documents/seniorsstrategyen.pdf. Accessed 06/24/19. https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/corporate/about.html. Accessed 07/01/19.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to provide comments to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs concerning its study of Bill C-2 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts). We will confine our comments to the portion of the proposed legislation that relates to impaired driving.
Canada's physicians support measures aimed at reducing the incidence of drug-impaired driving. We believe impaired driving, whether by alcohol or another drug, to be an important public health issue for Canadians that requires action by all governments and other concerned groups.
Published reports indicate that the prevalence of driving under the influence of cannabis is on the rise in Canada. We note that:
* Results from the Canadian Addictions Survey suggest that 4% of the population have driven under the influence of cannabis in the past year, an increase from the 1.5% in 2003 and that rates are higher among young people.1
* It was estimated that in 2003, 27.45% of traffic fatalities involved alcohol, 9.15% involved alcohol and drugs, and 3.66% involved drugs alone while 13.71% of crash injuries involved only alcohol, 4.57% involved alcohol and drugs, and 1.83% involved drugs alone.2
* In a 2002 survey, 17.7% of drivers reported driving within 2 hours of using a prescribed medication, over-the-counter remedy, marijuana, or other illicit drug during the past 12 months.
* These results suggest that an estimated 3.7 million Canadians drove after taking some medication or drug that could potentially affect their ability to drive safely.
* The most common drugs used were over-the-counter medications (15.9%), prescription drugs (2.3%), marijuana (1.5%), and other illegal drugs (0.9%).
* Young males were most likely to report using marijuana and other illegal drugs.
* While 86% of the drivers were aware that a conviction for impaired driving results in a criminal record, 66% erroneously believed that the penalties for drug-impaired driving were less severe than those for alcohol-impaired driving. In fact, the penalties are identical.
* Over 80% of drivers agreed that drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs should be required to participate in physical coordination testing for drug impairment. However, only about 70% of drivers agreed that all drivers involved in a serious collision or suspected of drug impairment should be required to provide a blood sample.3
The CMA has, on several occasions, provided detailed recommendations on legislative changes concerning impaired driving. In 1999, the CMA presented a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during its review of the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code. While our 1999 brief focused primarily on driving under the influence of alcohol, many of the recommendations are also relevant to the issue of driving under the influence of drugs.
In June 2007, the CMA provided comments to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of the House of Commons during their study of Bill C-32 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts) which was later incorporated in the omnibus Bill now before your Committee.
Last year, the CMA published the 7th edition of its guide, Determining Medical Fitness to Operate Motor Vehicles. It includes chapters on the importance of screening for alcohol or drug dependency and states that the abuse of such substances is incompatible with the safe operation of a vehicle. This publication is widely viewed by clinical and medical-legal practitioners as the authoritative Canadian source on the topic of driver competence.
While changing the Criminal Code is an important step, the CMA believes further actions are also warranted. In our 2002 presentation to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, the CMA put forth our long standing position regarding the need for a comprehensive long-term effort that incorporates both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education campaigns. We believe such an approach, together with comprehensive treatment and cessation programs, constitutes the most effective policy in attempting to reduce the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers.
Drug-impaired drivers may be occasional users of drugs or they may also suffer from substance dependence, a well-recognized form of disease. Physicians should be assisted to screen for drug dependency, when indicated, using validated instruments. Government must create and fund appropriate assessment and treatment interventions.
Physicians can assist in establishing programs in the community aimed at the recognition of the early signs of dependency. These programs should recognize the chronic, relapsing nature of drug addiction as a disease, as opposed to simply viewing it as criminal behaviour.
While supporting the intent of the proposed legislation, the CMA urges caution on several significant issues, with regard to Clause 20 that amends the act as follows:
254.1 (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations
(a) respecting the qualifications and training of evaluating officers;
(b) prescribing the physical coordination tests to be conducted under paragraph 254(2)(a); and
(c) prescribing the tests to be conducted and procedures to be followed during an evaluation under subsection 254(3.1).
CMA contends that it is important that medical professionals and addiction medicine specialists in particular, should be consulted regarding the training offered to officers to conduct roadside assessment and sample collection.
Provisions in the Act conferring upon police the power to compel roadside examination raises the important issue of security of the person and the privacy of health information. As well, information obtained at the roadside is personal medical information and regulations must ensure that it be treated with the same degree of confidentiality as any other element of an individual's medical record. Thus, the CMA would respectfully submit that Clause 25 of Bill-C2 on the issue of unauthorized use or disclosure of the results needs to be strengthened because the wording is too broad, unduly infringes privacy and shows insufficient respect for the health information privacy interests at stake.
For instance, clause 25(2) would permit the use, or allow the disclosure of the results "for the purpose of the administration or enforcement of the law of a province". This latter phrase needs to be narrowed in its scope so that it would not, on its face, encompass such a broad category of laws.
Moreover, clause 25(4) would allow the disclosure of the results "to any other person, if the results are made anonymous and the disclosure is made for statistical or other research purposes" CMA would expect the federal government to exercise great caution in this instance, particularly since the results could concern individuals who are not actually convicted of an offence.
One should query whether the Clause 25(4) should even exist in a Criminal Code as it would not appear to be a matter required to be addressed. If it is, then CMA would ask the government to conduct a rigorous privacy impact assessment on these components of the Bill, studying in particular, such matters as sample size, degree of anonymity, and other privacy related issues, especially given the highly sensitive nature of the material.
CMA would ask whether clause 25(5) should specify that the offence for improper use or disclosure should be more serious than a summary conviction. Finally, it is important to base any roadside testing methods and threshold decisions on robust biological and clinical research.
CMA also notes with interest Clause 21, specifically the creation of a new offence of being "over 80" (referring to 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, or a .08 blood alcohol concentration level or BAC) and causing an accident that results in bodily harm which will carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and life imprisonment for causing an accident resulting in death. (Clause 21)
We would also urge the Committee to take the opportunity that the review of this proposed legislation provides to recommend to Parliament a lower BAC level. Since 1988 the CMA has supported 50 mg% as the general legal limit. Studies suggest that a BAC limit of 50 mg% could translate into a 6% to 18% reduction in total motor vehicle fatalities or 185 to 555 fewer fatalities per year in Canada.4 A lower limit would recognize the significant detrimental effects on driving-related skills that occur below the current legal BAC.5
In our 1999 response to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights' issue paper on impaired driving6 and again in 2002 when we joined forces with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), CMA has consistently called for the federal government to reduce Canada's legal BAC to .05. Canada continues to lag behind countries such as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany, which have set a lower legal limit. 7
CMA expressed the opinion that injuries and deaths resulting from impaired driving must be recognized as a major public health concern. Therefore we once again recommend lowering the legal BAC limit to 50 mg%. or .05%.
We also wanted to note our support for Clause 23 which addresses the issue of liability by extending the existing umbrella of immunity for qualified medical practitioners to the new provision under 254(3.4)
23. Subsection 257(2) of the Act is replaced by the following:
(2) No qualified medical practitioner by whom or under whose direction a sample of blood is taken from a person under subsection 254(3) or (3.4) or section 256, and no qualified technician acting under the direction of a qualified medical practitioner, incurs any criminal or civil liability for anything necessarily done with reasonable care and skill when taking the sample.
Finally, CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate deterrent legislation, such as Bill C-2, must be accompanied by a public awareness and education strategy. This constitutes the most effective long-term approach to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports this multidimensional approach to the issue of the operation of a motor vehicle regardless of whether impairment is caused by alcohol or drugs.
Again, the CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide input into the legislative proposal on drug-impaired driving. We stress that these legislative changes alone would not adequately address the issue of reducing injuries and fatalities due to drug-impaired driving, but support their intent as a partial, but important measure.
Brian Day, MD
1 Bedard, M, Dubois S, Weaver, B. The impact of cannabis on driving, Canadian Journal of Public Health, Vol 98, 6-11, 2006
2 G. Mercer, Estimating the Presence of Alcohol and Drug Impairment in Traffic Crashes and their Costs to Canadians: 1999 to 2003 (Vancouver: Applied Research and Evaluation Services, 2005).
3 D. Beirness, H. Simpson and K. Desmond, The Road Safety Monitor 2002: Drugs and Driving (Ottawa: Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2003). Online: www.trafficinjuryResearch.com/whatNew/newsItemPDFs/RSM_02_Drugs_and_ Driving.pdf
4 Mann, Robert E., Scott Macdonald, Gina Stoduto, Abdul Shaikh and Susan Bondy (1998) Assessing the Potential Impact of Lowering the Blood Alcohol Limit to 50 MG % in Canada. Ottawa: Transport Canada, TP 13321 E.
5 Moskowitz, H. and Robinson, C.D. (1988). Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving Skills: A Review of the Evidence. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT-HS-800-599 as cited in Mann, et al., note 8 at page 12-13
6 Proposed Amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada (Impaired Driving): Response to Issue Paper of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. March 5, 1999
7 Mann et al
The CMA appreciates the opportunity to present to the Standing Committee on Health today.
My presentation will focus on:
1. Wait Times
2. Health Human Resources; and
3. Patient Focused Care
In regard to the issue of wait times, I would echo the two main points of my colleagues from the Wait Time Alliance:
* First, while progress is being made on wait times, that progress is limited and not consistent across the country; and second,
* Health workforce and infrastructure capacity shortages remain the primary barriers to effectively addressing wait times.
Wait times don't only exact a heavy human toll - they also carry severe economic costs.
A CMA-commissioned report released earlier this year found that the economic cost of having patients wait longer than medically recommended was $14.8 billion in 2007. That stunning total was for just four of the five procedures identified as priorities in the 10-year plan - joint replacement, diagnostic imagining and cataract and bypass surgery - and it was only for one year.
Over a million Canadians continue to suffer on wait lists because of deficiencies in our system. This is unacceptable.
We need to "break the back" of wait times for the sake of our patients and for the economic health of Canada.
This will require:
* More federal leadership, not less;
* A revolutionary change in the "focus" of our health care system; and
* Substantial investments.
Health Human Resources
The 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care acknowledged the need to increase the supply of health care professionals in Canada. However, not enough progress has been made.
Canada is 26,000 doctors short of the average of developed countries, and we now rank a lowly 24th among OECD countries in doctors per population.
A poll released today by the CMA found that Canada's doctor shortage ranked second only to the economy as a top public issue. In this same poll, 91% of Canadians say having a plan to address the doctor shortage will influence their vote in the next federal election. Federal political parties who ignore this issue in the next election could pay a price at the polls.
In the 10-year plan to strengthen health care, $1-billion was set aside for the last four years (2010-2014) of the agreement. We can't afford to wait that long.
This funding should be immediately fast-tracked to focus on the three priority areas in the CMA's "More Doctors. More Care" Campaign:
* One, expanding health professional education and training capacity;
* Two, ensuring self sufficiency in health human resources by investing in long-term health human resource planning; and.
* Three, investing in health information technology to make our health care system more responsive and efficient.
In terms of IT, we should be ashamed that we only spend a third of the OECD average on IT in our hospitals. Canada's poor record in avoidable adverse effects is, in part, due to our system's inability to share available information in a timely manner.
Patient Focused Care
Many countries have systems that provide universal care, have no wait lists and cost the same or less to run as our system does. Wait lists can and must be eliminated in Canada. The momentum to do just that depends simply on making the system work for patients, not on forcing patients to work the system.
We must reposition patients to the centre of our health-care system, which requires that we move beyond block funding or global budgets for health institutions. We need a system where funds follow the patient - patient-focused funding.
Block funding blocks access. Patient-focused funding will increase productivity, lead to greater efficiencies and reduce wait lists. A patient will become a value to an institution, not a cost.
Canada remains the last country in the developed world to fund hospitals with block funding. In England, patient-focused funding helped eliminate wait lists in less than four years.
So, my question to the Committee is why do we wait?
Why do we continue to keep patients on wait lists when research shows it costs a lot less to cut wait times then it does to have them?
Why do we not make the necessary reforms and investments to provide Canadians with timely access to quality care?
On behalf of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), I want to thank you for the opportunity to provide the following information to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology during its review of the service sector in Canada. The committee's study of the strengths and challenges facing this sector, overall employment percentage, overall average of salaries across the sector its impact on Canada's overall economy and the role of the Government of Canada in strengthening this sector comes at an opportune time.
CANADA'S HEALTH SERVICES SECTOR
Canada's health services sector is facing a critical shortage of physicians and other health care professionals and the CMA and our over 67,000 physician members are pleased to have the opportunity to present practical solutions within the jurisdiction of the federal government - working collaboratively with provincial/territorial governments and other health system stakeholders.
Health care delivery in Canada is a $160 billion industry, representing over 10% of our country's gross domestic product (GDP).1 The 30,120 physicians' offices across Canada make important contributions to our economy. In 2003, the latest year for which data are available, offices of physicians employed 142,000 Canadians and contributed $11.6 billion to the Canadian economy.2 This represents almost 39 per cent of all Health Service Delivery establishments, and almost 11% of all HSD employees. As a standard measure of economic productivity, physician offices report the highest levels of GDP per employee within the Health Service Delivery sector. On this measure, they are approximately twice as productive as other components of Health Service Delivery.
There are simply not enough physicians to continue providing the quality health care that Canadians expect and deserve. Here are the facts:
- Almost 5 million Canadians do not have access to a family physician;
- By 2018 an additional 4.5 million Canadians could be without a doctor;
- Canada ranks 24th in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations in terms of physicians-per-population ratio. Canada would need 26,000 more doctors right now to meet the OECD average;
- Canada spends only a third of the OECD average on information technology (IT) and diagnostic equipment in our hospitals; and
- Canada has the highest hospital occupancy rate of all OECD countries and among the highest waits for access to specialty care services.
The lack of physicians and other health care providers has resulted in restricted access to health care services and the growth of wait times for necessary medical procedures. In January 2008, CMA released new research by the Centre for Spatial Economics that proved that, in addition to the human health cost, waiting for care results in dramatic and excessive costs to our economy. Researchers addressed just four priority areas targeted in the 2004 First Ministers Health Accord. They used government and other data to determine how many Canadians were waiting longer than the maximum medical consensus established by the Wait Time Alliance.
Selected for analysis were: joint replacement, cataract surgery, heart bypass grafts, and MRI scans. Costs, as calculated for all provinces varied from $2,900 to over $26,000 per patient. The cumulative cost of waiting in 2007, for treatment in just 4 areas, was $14.8 billion.
This reduced economic activity lowered government revenues in 2007 by $4.4 billion. That is equivalent to over 1/3rd of the total Ontario health budget. The reduction in economic activity included the impact of the patient's inability to work while waiting, and direct losses from decreased production of goods and services, reduced income, and lowered discretionary spending.
It is important to note that the figure of 14.8 billion dollars is based only on patients that exceed designated maximum waiting times in just 4 clinical areas. In the example of hip replacements, the research only factored in costs for waits that exceed 6 months. Of those waiting longer than the maximum recommended time, average waits were 1 year for hip and knee replacement surgery, 7 months for cataract surgery, and twice maximum for heart bypass surgery. Those who didn't make the MRI target waited an average of 12 weeks.
Reduced economic activity included informal caregiver costs. These costs are generated when caregivers reduce work hours to care for family members on wait lists, or attend appointments with family members. Patients languishing on wait lists also incur additional costs for drug and other treatments that timely care would eliminate.
Estimates in this study are extremely conservative. They address only the wait time to treatment after a specialist's consultation and recommendation. And exclude the growing, and significant costs of waiting to see the GP or specialist. They do not include anyone who is not working. They do not include the costs, short and long term, of the deterioration that occurs while waiting.
To solve Canada's doctor shortage, the CMA believes governments must:
- Adopt a long-term policy of self-sufficiency to provide Canadians with the health care professionals they need when and where they need them;
- Establish a dedicated health human resource renewal fund to educate, retain and enhance the lives of health care professionals; and
- Invest in health technology, infrastructure and innovation to make our health care system more responsive and efficient.
Over the past decade, there have been increasing concerns that Canada is not producing an adequate number of health providers to meet the growing demand for health services - now and into the future. These concerns have been consistently registered by physicians, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, in addition to other groups that represent other providers and the institutional and heath facilities community.
Furthermore, the policy challenges related to health human resources (HHR) have been identified in several seminal reports - including the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science & Technology, and the Health Council of Canada.3
A growing number of health providers are looking to retire over the next decade (or leave the health system all together) relative to the number of trainees who are entering the health system, and at a time where a growing number of Canadians will be turning to the health system for diagnosis and treatment. Over 6% of physicians who responded to the National Physician Survey 20074 said they plan to retire from clinical practice and 1% plan to permanently leave practice for other reasons in the next 2 years. The effect of these changes could mean that, as the baby boom generation gets older, over 4,000 physicians will cease their medical practice within the next 2 years, making it even more difficult for Canadians to find a family physician.
At the same time, the HHR challenges facing Canada's health care system are not unique to our country - over the next decade all western developed countries can expect intensified global competition for talent when it comes to health providers.5
While there are, no doubt, other provider groups who are also concerned about the future supply of health providers, there is a growing national consensus that, in addition to the primary role that the provinces and territories play in supporting the training of health providers across the country, there is a significant, catalytic and strong complementary role for the federal government in the area of health human resources.
CMA, like many health care organizations, is of the view that there is a legitimate role for the federal government to strengthen its working relationship with the provinces and territories, and health providers through the creation of a time-limited, issue-specific and strategically-targeted fund to accelerate training capacity in the health system.
The World Medical Association's ethical guidelines for international recruitment of physicians16 (2003), fully supported by the CMA, recommend that every country "should do its utmost to educate an adequate number of physicians, taking into account its needs and resources. A country should not rely on immigration from other countries to meet its need for physicians."7 However, in reality Canada continues to rely heavily on recruitment of internationally educated health professionals. Approximately one-third of the increase in physician supply each year is due to International Medical Graduates (IMGs) who are either recruited directly to practice or who have taken significant postgraduate medical training in Canada. In nursing, the number of internationally educated nurses applying for licensure is increasing rapidly, almost tripling from 1999 to 2003.
Previous recommendations of the CMA to the House of Commons included improved medium- to longer-term supply projection models; sufficient opportunities for Canadians to train for health professional careers in Canada; and integration of international graduates, who are permanent residents or citizens of Canada, into practice. The CMA recognizes that professionals are working in an increasingly global world in terms of the exchange of scientific information, mutual recognition of qualifications between countries and the movement of people.
The greatest barrier to enhancing Canada's ability to become more self-sufficient, in terms of physician resources, is the capacity of our medical schools. Despite recent increases in enrolment, Canada continues to turn away approximately 3 equally qualified students for every 1 that is accepted into an undergraduate medical program. This has resulted in over 1500 Canadian students, with the financial means to do so, who are training in medical schools outside of Canada.
INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL GRADUATES
In the larger context, Canada's current fertility rate is not sufficient to support self-sufficiency in general in relation to any professions. And, while self-sufficiency in the production of physicians is a desirable goal, it is also important to promote the international exchange of teaching and research, particularly in an increasingly global society. In this regard, IMGs should be considered as a planning component for a sustainable Canadian physician workforce. Historically IMGs have entered the practice of medicine through a variety of routes, which most typically include a recognized period of post-MD training in Canada.
CMA's best estimate is that there are about 400 IMGs newly licensed to practice in Canada each year who have not completed postgraduate training in Canada. In addition, there are another 300 or so who are exiting Canadian postgraduate training programs and heading into practice. In fact, for the past few years, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has licensed more IMGs than new Ontario medical graduates.
In recent years, there have been an increasing number of opportunities for IMGs already living in Canada to achieve the required credentials for licensure. The number of ministry-funded IMG postgraduate residents has more than tripled in the past seven years from 294 to 1065 trainees. In 2007, there were almost 1500 IMGs who were qualified to compete in the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) match. By the end of the second round, close to 300 had matched and about 60 were placed through other provincial programs.
The federal government should make a clear policy commitment to increasing self-sufficiency in the education and training of health professionals in Canada that would incorporate the following.
- Short term - increase number of community preceptors to train Canadian graduates and assess internationally educated health professionals already living in Canada. Recognition of the time and value of community teaching is needed.
- Medium term - support increased capacity for academic health science centres and other institutions that train health professionals.
- Long term - creation of new academic health science centres to increase capacity for self-sufficiency.
REPATRIATING CANADIAN DOCTORS WORKING ABROAD
It is known that there are thousands of Canadian-trained health professionals practising in the United States and abroad. Between 1991 and 2004, almost 8,000 physicians left Canada (although some 4,000 returned for a net loss of 4,000).8 Of this number, roughly 80% went to the US.9 During the 1990s, approximately 27,000 nurses migrated from Canada to the US.1011 A more recent indicator of nursing outmigration is that in 2006, 943 Canadian-trained Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses wrote the US licensing board examination for the first time.12 Data for other health professional disciplines are not readily available.
In 2007, with the assistance of the American Medical Association, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) surveyed all (n=5,156) Canadian-trained physicians practicing in the US who were age 55 or under, with regard to the likelihood of their return to Canada and the importance of various factors that might be incentives to return. A 32% response rate was achieved with a single mailing with no follow-up - this is considered exceptionally high.
While only 13% of respondents indicated that they were likely or very likely to return to Canada, a further 25% were neutral in their opinion. What is more telling is that more than one-half of respondents indicated that they would be willing to be contacted by CMA to explore practice opportunities and provided their contact information for this purpose. When asked about a range of potential incentives to return to Canada, 57% agreed that a relocation allowance would be somewhat or very important.13 It must be stressed, however, that it is clear from the results that a number of factors would need to be taken into consideration, such as practice opportunities. This would also be true of other disciplines; in the case of nursing, nurses will only come back for full-time jobs and healthy work environments.14
Nonetheless, expatriate Canadian medical graduates should be good candidates for recruitment on the basis of the greater likelihood that they will meet Canadian standards for full medical licensure, and it is expected that this would also apply to nursing and other disciplines.
As well, significant progress has been made in restoring and adding capacity to our medical schools but, to achieve self-sufficiency, much more needs to be done. For example, we must try and repatriate Canadian medical students and doctors who are studying and working abroad. There are currently some 1500 Canadian medical students and residents training abroad, we must act now, before things get worse.
During that past few years there have been efforts to enhance national coordination in the health human resources arena. One area of national focus has been the integration of International Medical Graduates, since extended to nursing and other disciplines. There have been several initiatives undertaken in this area such as the establishment of the Canadian Information Centre for International Medical Graduates15 which provides a clearinghouse of information and links to provincial/territorial jurisdictions.
Relocation grants, from $10,000 up to $20,000 could be offered to Canadian-trained physicians practising in the US. It is suggested that advertising be concentrated in and around US cities where Canada maintains a consulate/office (in states with a significant concentration with recruitment candidates) and in major national and selected state health professional journals. The cost of a repatriation secretariat is estimated at $162,500 per year. Assuming that 1,500 health professionals are recruited back over the 3-year period, the total cost would range from $21.5 million to $36.5 million.
This would further translate to a per recruit cost that ranges from $14,325 to $24,325. Even at the high end of the range this would be cost-effective as compared to the total cost of training a practice-entry level graduate of any licensed health professional discipline in Canada.
In light of the foregoing, the CMA has recommended that the federal government should establish a Health Professional Repatriation Program in the amount of $30 million over 3 years that would include the following:
- secretariat within Health Canada that would include a clearinghouse function on issues associated with returning to Canada such as licensure, citizenship and taxation;
- An advertising campaign in the US to encourage health professionals practicing south of the border to return home; and
- A program of one-time relocation grants for health professionals returning to active practice in Canada.
NATIONAL HEALTH HUMAN RESOURCES INFRASTRUCTURE FUND
The implementation of Medicare in Canada in the 1960s required a major investment in the capacity to train more health professionals. The 1966 Health Resources Fund Act played a key role in enabling a significant expansion in training capacity across the provinces for a range of health professionals. Forty years later, Canada faces growing shortages across most health disciplines. Clearly another giant step up is required in the human and physical infrastructure needed to train health professionals if Canadians are to have timely access to care.
During the years of fiscal famine of the 1990s, health professional enrolment was either reduced (e.g., 10% in the case of medicine) or flat-lined. While there have been increases since 2000, we are about to face the double impact of both an aging population as the first of the baby boomers reach 65 in 2011 and aging health professions. For example, more than 1 out of 3 physicians (35%) are aged 55 or older. As mentioned, as many as 4,000 physicians are expected to retire in the next 2 years.
If we are going to have sufficient numbers of health providers to meet the needs of the next few decades, it is imperative to expand the human and physician infrastructure capacity of our health professional education and training system. The federal investments in health human resources over 2003-2005 of some $200 million have been welcome, but fall far short of what is needed.
It is proposed that the federal government implement a National Health Human Resources Infrastructure Fund in the amount of $1 billion over 5 years that would be made available to the provinces/territories on an equal per capita basis, and awarded through a competitive process that would include federal/ provincial/territorial representation with consultation/engagement of health professional organizations. The fund would address the following elements:
1. The direct costs of training providers and developing leaders (e.g., cost of recruiting and supporting more community- based teachers/preceptors).
2. The indirect or infrastructure costs associated with the educational enterprise (e.g., physical plant [housekeeping, maintenance]; support for departments [information systems, library resources, occupational health, etc.]; education offices, and the materials and equipment necessary for clinical practice and practical training.
3. Resources that improve the country's overall data management capacity when it comes to health human resources, and in particular, facilitate the ability to model and forecast health human resource requirements in the face of the changing demand for health services.
Clearly it would be necessary to develop guidelines around the types of expenditures that would be eligible as was done for the 1966 Health Resources Fund, and more recently for the Medical Equipment Fund II.
The federal government should establish a National Health Human Resources Fund in the amount of $1 billion over 5 years to expand health professional education and training capacity by providing funding to support the:
- direct costs of training providers
- indirect or infrastructure costs associated with the educational enterprise
- resources that improve Canada's data collection and management capacity in the area of health human resources.
More than 85% of the health care delivered in Canada occurs within the community. This is the most under-invested segment of the health care delivery system in terms of information technology. Dr. Brian Postl in his June 2006 wait-time report16 to the federal government noted health information technology is essential in improving wait times. He quantified the investment needed at $2.4 billion with the largest portion of this investment ($1.9 billion) targeted to automating physician offices, which are located at the front line of care in community settings and are key to managing and resolving the wait time issue in Canada.
Why invest in physician office automation? Because it will lead to improved productivity from the provider community through more efficient resource usage and through improved coordination in the delivery of care; it will enable labour mobility of health care workers through portability of records; it will support the wait time agenda by improving the flow of timely information; it will build an electronic infrastructure platform to enhance patient care and health research and will provide a direct financing vehicle for the federal government to influence and shape the health care sector.
The federal government has made similar types of infrastructure investment. The CFI Program was established to fund research infrastructure, which consists of the state-of-the-art equipment, buildings, laboratories and databases required to conduct research. Investing in EMR infrastructure will lead to the creation of state of the art clinical environments across Canada, electronic data base of health information and the foundational underpinnings of a health information network to support enhanced population health and health research.
Under this scenario the federal contribution would provide a direct benefit to physicians without any need for provincial or territorial involvement. Second, the federal government could use existing government machinery to manage the program. Third, the federal contribution to infrastructure would only flow after a physician has introduced an EMR into his/her clinic ensuring that the funding is directly tied to building the EMR infrastructure platform.
The recent National Physician Survey notes that some progress is being made across the country to automate community clinics. However without incentives the adoption trend will be incremental and extend over a further 20-year time frame. Financial incentives can shorten the timelines since it addresses one of the main adoption barriers physicians identify.17
Diffusion theory18 of new technologies into any sector of the economy demonstrates that without appropriate incentives it will take approximately 25 years the technology to reach the saturation point of integration. It is estimated that a financial incentive can shorten this timeline by 15 years.
The federal government, over a 5-year time frame, should provide a full tax credit to any physician who takes the steps to automate his or her clinical office. The tax credit would only apply to 1-time costs to establish a state of the art clinical environment. It is estimated, on average, 1-time costs would be $22,000. Total costs of the program if fully subscribed would amount to $880 million.
The health services sector makes significant contributions to the Canadian economy, both in terms of direct stimulus and by keeping Canadians healthy and productive. However, Canada's health services sector is facing a critical shortage of physicians and other health care professionals. By:
- Adopting a long-term policy of self-sufficiency to provide Canadians with the health care professionals they need when and where they need them;
- Establishing a dedicated health human resource renewal fund to educate, retain and enhance the lives of health care professionals;
- Investing in health technology, infrastructure and innovation to make our health care system more responsive and efficient;
the federal government, in partnership with provincial/territorial governments and other health system stakeholders can strengthen this sector. A strong health services sector means healthy Canadians and a vibrant Canadian economy.
Again, on behalf of the Canadian Medical Association, Canada's doctors appreciate the opportunity to provide information to the Committee.
Brian Day, MD
President, Canadian Medical Association
1 National Health Expenditure Trends, 1975-2007. Canadian Institute for Health Information. 2007
2 Source: Business Register (STC 2003) and TIM (Informetrica Limited)
3 The Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, November 2002. Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science & Technology, October 2002. The Health Council of Canada "Modernizing the Management of Health Human Resources in Canada: Identifying Areas for Accelerated Change: November 2005.
4 The National Physician Survey is a major ongoing research project conducted by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, Canadian Medical Association and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada that gathers the opinions of all physicians, 2nd year medical residents and medical students from across the country. It is the largest census survey of its kind and is an important barometer of where the country's present and future doctors are on a wide range of critical issues.
5 The Economist, The Battle for BrainPower - A Survey of Talent, October 7, 2006.
7 World Medical Association. The World Medical Association Statement on Ethical Guidelines for the International Recruitment of Physicians. Geneva: The World Medical Association; 2003. Available: www.wma.net/e/policy/e14.htm
8 Canadian Institute for Health Information.
2. Canadian Institute for Health Information.
10 Zaho J, Drew D, Murray T. Barin drain and brain gain: the migration of knowledge workers from and to Canada. Education Quarterly Review 2000;6(3):8-35.
12 Little L, Canadian Nurses Association, personal communication, January 8, 2008.
13 Buske L. Analysis of the survey of Canadian graduates practicing in the United States. October 2007. http://www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Policy_Advocacy/Policy_Research/US_survey_ver_4.pdf. Accessed 02/04/08.
14 Little L, Canadian Nurses Association, personal communication, January 28, 2008.
16 Postl, B. Final Report of the Federal Advisor on Wait Times. Ottawa: Minister of Health Canada, Health Council of Canada; 2005.
17 Canadian Medical Association/Canada Infoway. Physician Technology Usage and Attitudes Survey. Ottawa: CMA/CanadaInfoway; 2005. Available: www.cma.ca/index.cfm/ci_id/49044/la_id/1.htm (accessed 8 Jan 2008).
18 Bower, Anthony. The Diffusion and Value of Healthcare Information Technology. Santa Monica (CA): RAND Corporation; 2005
By many measures Canada's health care system is underperforming. One symptom of this weak performance are exceedingly long wait times that have an impact on care and cost patients, the system and governments money1. There are a number of responses to this poor performance including increasing the supply of health human resources2. Another response is to maximize the resources we have on the front lines and work smarter through information technology. This productivity approach is aligned with the assumptions set out in the federal government's Advantage Canada strategy. This strategy involves principally a 'knowledge advantage' and an 'infrastructure advantage'. Consequently, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is recommending that the federal government make a strategic "strings attached" $570-million investment to create an interconnected health information technology network3 through a Health Information System Transition Fund and time-limited accelerated IT tax incentives.
This investment aims to integrate all Canadian patient health care records, an effort that will take time. However, there are foundations upon which to build thanks to federal government investments - most recently in providing $400 million for wait-time related health information systems. But for these investments to bear fruit further connectivity and integration is vital. In other words, our current system is like having an ATM card that only works at the bank's head office. We believe that additional investments must concentrate on connecting patient records in physician offices with hospitals and medical laboratories. Physicians also believe in accountability, and suggest investments should not be made unless the clinical community confirms a high level of system integration.
The CMA recommends that the federal government should invest $570 million over five years in an interconnected pan-Canadian health information system that includes:
=> A $225 million, 5-year Health Information System Transition Fund aimed at change management training and support to convert 26-million patient records in 36,000 physician offices and community care facilities into interoperable electronic records across Canada.
=> $305 million for a 3-year time-limited and accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for software and hardware costs related to health information technologies that connect patient records from physician offices to laboratories and hospitals.
=> $10 million to sponsor a cross-country education campaign to inform Canadians of the health and system benefits of e-health connectivityi.
=> $2 million annually for Canada Research Chairs to promote and demonstrate the value of interconnectivity in health information between the faculties of Medicine, Management and Engineering.
The federal government must also encourage provinces to increase their support of these initiatives and work to reduce the barriers to health information system interfacing, by ensuring patient record systems use similar codes in labs, hospitals and physician offices. Federal government guidance, encouragement and cooperation with the provinces is integral to making these connectivity investments a success. It is time that the federal government helped finish the job of health information system connectivity. A health information network will improve patient outcomes, system efficiency, increase accountability and save billions of dollars.
Why advance e-health interconnectivity now? Our health system e-performance is poor
Both national and international studies confirm that Canada lags behind nearly every major industrial country when it comes to health information technology (Figure 8). The impact of this underinvestment is longer wait times, poorer quality, and a severe lack of financial accountability especially of federal dollars. Investments in connectivity are needed now because Canada's health care system compares poorly in both value and efficiency compared to other countries. The Conference Board of Canadaii, the OECDiii, the World Health Organizationiv, the Commonwealth Fundv, and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy all rate Canada's health care system poorly in terms of "value for money" as well as efficiency.
Benchmarking health information connectivity-where we stand, where we must go
According to the 2007 National Physician Survey, just 30% of physicians have an electronic interface with a medical laboratory or diagnostic imaging facility, while fewer than 5% have such an interface with a pharmacy/pharmacistvi. Imagine if just 30% of Canadian banks had ATMs throughout the country? This is a difference of not only convenience, but quality and cost savings. In comparison, Denmark and New Zealand have near 100% use of electronic medical records (EMRs) in ambulatory care. According to Dr. Allan Brookstonevii an EMR expert, "If most physicians in a health region or geographic area implemented an EMR system, the incentive for a local hospital or region to connect to those physicians would be significantly enhanced". In an emergency situation right now in Canada it is easier to access critical financial information than critical health information. This reality is not a matter of technology but the lack of will to put it in place.
2. Why the federal government should be interested in e-health interconnectivity.
-Health information technology connectivity yields returns on investment: 8:1
International strategy and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton found that viii the benefits of an interconnected Electronic Health Record (EHR) in Canada could provide annual system-wide savings of $6.1 billion. These savings would come from reduced duplicate testing, transcription savings, fewer chart pulls and filing time, reductions in office supplies and reduced expenditures due to fewer adverse drug reactions. The study went on to state that the benefits to health care outcomes would equal or surpass these annual savings, thus providing a possible combined annual savings of $12.2 billion. In addition, a comprehensive literature reviewix comparing health IT productivity gains to similar industries in the U.S. concludes that effective EMR implementation and networking could eventually save more than $81 billion annually by improving health care efficiency and safety. Similarly, health information technology-enabled prevention and management of chronic disease could eventually double those savings while increasing health and other social benefits. Assuming that the Canadian health system is one-tenth the size of US system, savings would range from $8 to $16 billion annually.
Connected health information technology - increasing performance and accountability
A fundamental question the Standing Committee on Finance may ask is where $22 billion (growing at 6 % annually) in federal health care transfers to the provinces is going and what are the results of this support? Right now, we do not know exactly. Health care in Canada represents 10% of our economy ($160 billion annually and growing at 6% per year) and is larger than the total agricultural sector.
The question Canadians are asking is not whether tax dollars should be spent on health care, but whether the money being spent is worth the services receivedx. Moreover, in health care, there are legitimate questions as to whether improvements to date have justified the associated costs. The public institutions and organizations that deliver health care in Canada could deliver more value than they do at present. With a national health information (management) system in place they could work to reduce variations in the quality of service and in the way services are used across the system. However at a national level, we do not have an accounting systemxi in place to uniformly measure quality across the country.
3. Who: Canadians - our patients - want and need e-health interconnectivity.
Health information technology is critical to managing wait times
Quality of care is an important concern for Canadians, but first they must be able to get the care they need. But waiting for health care is the principal concern for Canadiansxii. Excessive wait times result in mental anguish for patients and their families and also cost the Canadian economy billions of dollars each year. In 2007 a study commissioned by the CMAxiii conservatively calculated that excessive wait times in just four procedures (joint replacements, cataract surgery, coronary artery bypass grafts and MRIs) cost the economy over $14 billion in lost output and government revenues. It is important to note that beyond these hospital procedures there is potential to reduce wait times and cost in physician offices through information technology. This is why we have suggested accelerating the capital cost allowance tax for EMR related software and hardware purchases and that they go to community care and physician offices where most patient visits occur every day. Figure 1 below shows that in Ontario for example, just 3,000 out of an average of 247,000 patient visits per day or 1.2% of the total are made in hospitals. That is why this submission is aimed at (the circle area in the chart) increasing connectivity and tying investments to the 99% of the places where patients visit most.
Figure 1 Patient visits per day in Ontario, Source: Canada Health Infoway
Most of the emphasis on connectivity in Canadian health care to date has not focused on the point of care -even though the number of patient interactions with hospitals is greatly exceeded by the number of visits to physicians' officesxiv. Thus patient-physician office interactions outnumber patient-hospital interactions by a ratio of 18 to 1. It is also important that patients understand the value of electronic health records, which is why we are recommending a $10 million cross-country educational campaign to impact the demand side of this critical health and industrial equation.
4. Why physicians are involved in e-health interconnectivity
The physician community can play a pivotal role in helping the federal governments make a connected health care system a realizable goal in the years to come. Through a multi-stakeholder process encompassing the entire health care team, the CMA will work toward achieving cooperation and buy-in. This will require a true partnership between provincial medical associations, provincial and territorial governments and Canada Health Infoway (CHI).
Accelerating Advantage Canada through health information technologies
The CMA's pre-budget submission, related to health system connectivity, incorporates the five tenets of Advantage Canadaxv. This submission principally addresses the infrastructure and knowledge advantages that are involved in investing in an interconnected network that is useless unless the 'knowledge' advantage to provide stewardship of the Electronic Health Record through our physicians' is in place. That is why we recommend that the federal government help support research, development and knowledge transfer at our major universities in health information technology by supporting 10 Canada Research Chairs in the faculties of Medicine, Management and Engineering. In addition, a pan-Canadian health information technology network will provide the kind of infrastructure that supports labour mobility where for example a migrant worker from Atlantic Canada can access his health records in Fort McMurray Alberta.
5. How to speed-up health information technology connectivity -a green tax incentive approach
Thus far the strategy applied to health information connectivity in Canada has been focused on a top-down approach that has produced limited success. That is why the CMA is suggesting that the federal government accelerate the Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) on EMR-related software and hardware equipment over the next three years - an early-bird special or incentive. The CMA does not pretend to be tax policy experts however we do appreciate the federal governments' recent increase in the CCA rates for software and hardware. Our recommendation would mean changing the current software CCA (Class 12xvi) from 100% over two years to 100% in the first year specifically for EMR related investments. And for EMR hardware (Class 50xvii) accelerate the CCA to 100% in the first year from the current 55% rate for a limited time only of three years. These accelerated CCA rate proposals are also consistent with the governments' environmentally friendly CCA initiative as EMRs would save tonnes of paper for years.
Mixed results for Canada Health Infoway => Health Information System Transition Fund
The CMA lauds the federal government's 2008 Budget for making a $400-million investment in Canada Health Infoway (CHI) to support early movement toward patient wait time guarantees through the development of health information systems and electronic health records. At the same time the physician community believes that CHI has had mixed results, especially when it comes to digitizing and integrating patient records at the places where most patients contact the health care system: physician offices, laboratories and emergency rooms. However, we believe with targeted, conditional policies CHI can be an effective vehicle to accelerate the transition of current health centre paper practices into electronic operations through a time limited five-years Health Information Transition Fund. We also believe that federal transition funds should be matched at a fifty-fifty rate by the provinces. Although this may not be easy, there are other non-monetary policy levers (e.g. regulatory) that the federal government could and should use to persuade the provinces of the value of investing in electronic health record system integration. This is particularly true since the provinces will yield most of the return on the investment. It is imperative that the current health information technology gap be closed and be set at levels for similar service-intensive industries (see Figure 2 in the Appendix 1). That is why; beyond the figures outlined in this submission, the CMA recommends continued federal health information technology support for the next 10 years.
Conclusion - Big investments. but big payoffs too
As the Health Council of Canada stated in their 2008 annual reportxviii, "Change is underway, but too slowly". The OECD, WHO, The Commonwealth Fund and the Conference Board of Canada's research all strongly suggest that Canada lags behind the rest of the industrialized world in terms of health information technology investments and system integration. The investments made so far may seem large but they will be wasted if a second effort in connecting the entire system is not made now. It is time that the federal government finishes the job of health information system connectivity at the point of care.
A Pan-Canadian network of health information will improve patient outcomes, health system efficiency and dramatically increase system accountability. The Health Council of Canada also said that, "These [health information technology] are big investments but the payoff is big too". Accordingly we suggest that over the next five years the following investments will improve the running of Medicare as well as the Canadian economy.
The CMA recommends that the federal government should invest $570 million over five years in an interconnected pan-Canadian health information system that includes:
=> A $225 million, 5-year Health Information System Transition Fund aimed at change management training and support involved in converting 26 million patient records in 36,000 physician offices and community care facilities into interoperable electronic records across Canada.
=> $305 million for a 3-year time limited accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for EMR software and hardware costs related to health information technologies that connect patient records from physician offices to laboratories and hospitals.
=> $10 million to sponsor a cross-country education campaign to inform Canadians of the health and system benefits of e-health connectivityxix.
=> $2 million annually for Canada Research Chairs promoting the value of interconnectivity in health information between the faculties of Medicine, Management and Engineering.
1The cumulative economic cost of waiting for treatment across just 4 priority areas in 2007 was an estimated $14.8 billion. This reduction in economic activity lowered federal and provincial government revenues in 2007 by a combined $4.4 billion. See:www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Inside_cma/Media_Release/pdf/2008/EconomicReport.pdf
2 Almost 5-million Canadians do not have a family physician. Canada would need 26,000 more doctors to meet the OECD average of physicians per population. Physicians spend more time on paperwork and less with patients than they did 20 years ago. See: "More Doctors. More Care.": www.moredoctors.ca/take_action/
3 Please see Table l in Appendix 1 for full investment horizon details.
i Patient perspective on electronic medical record.
Meldgaard M; International Society of Technology Assessment in Health Care. Meeting (19th : 2003 : Canmore, Alta.). Annu Meet Int Soc Technol Assess Health Care Int Soc Technol Assess Health Care Meet. 2003; 19: abstract no. 148.
CONCLUSIONS: Patient confidence and perceived quality of care is influenced by a well informed forward-looking staff as can be obtained in settings where EPR is successfully implemented. Patient satisfaction and the functional level of EPR implementation are interdependent.
ii A Report Card on Canada see: http://sso.conferenceboard.ca/HCP/overview/health-overview.aspx
iii Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] (2007). OECD Health
Data 2007. Version 07/18/2007. CD-ROM. Paris: OECD.
iv World Health Organization [WHO] (2007). World Health Statistics 2007. see: http://www.who.
v Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: An International Update on the Comparative Performance of American Health Care May 15, 2007 (updated May 16, 2007)
Authors: Karen Davis, Ph.D., Cathy Schoen, M.S., Stephen C. Schoenbaum, M.D., M.P.H., Michelle M. Doty, Ph.D., M.P.H., Alyssa L. Holmgren, M.P.A., Jennifer L. Kriss, and Katherine K. Shea
Editor(s):Deborah Lorber see: www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/publications_show.htm?doc_id=482678
vi See Tables Q39 and Q40a in the 2007 National Physician Survey at:www.nationalphysiciansurvey.ca/nps/
vii Dr. Alan Brookstone is a family physician in Richmond, BC and the founder of CanadianEMR. The quote was taken from: Online resource enables MDs to rate EMRs. See: www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Inside_cma/Future_Practice/English/2007/November/Online-e.pdf
The CanadianEMR Physician Resource Directory provides access to a province specific searchable list of vendors of products and services to support the EMR-based practice. http://www.canadianemr.ca/
viii Booz, Allan, Hamilton Study, Pan-Canadian Electronic Health Record, Canada's Health Infoway's 10-Year Investment Strategy, March 2005-09-06.
ix Can Electronic Medical Record Systems Transform Health Care? Potential Health Benefits, Savings, And Costs
Richard Hillestad, James Bigelow, Anthony Bower, Federico Girosi, Robin Meili, Richard Scoville and Roger Taylor, Health Affairs, 24, no. 5 (2005): 1103-1117.
x In November 2008 the Auditor General of Canada will present it's performance audit on, "Reporting on Health Indicators-Health Canada" to Parliament. See: www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/oag-bvg_e_29401.html
xi There has been heavy emphasis is being placed on "accountability" and "performance measurement," endorsed by the Romanow Commission (Commission on the Future of Healthcare in Canada 2002), the Kirby Committee (Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology 2002), and the First Ministers' accord (First Ministers 2004). See Raisa Deber Why Did the World Health Organization Rate Canada's Health System as 30th? Some Thoughts on League Tables. Some Thoughts on League Tables
xii The results of an Ipsos Reid poll (January 2008) finds that eight in ten (78%) Canadians believe that hospital and other health care wait times cost Canada money because people who are waiting for treatment are less productive and miss work. This is compared to just two in ten (19%) who think that wait times save Canada money because governments don't have to put as many resources into healthcare.
xiii The economic cost of wait times in Canada, January 2008. This study was commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) to analyze the economic costs of wait times in Canada's medical system. The CMA's membership includes more than 67,000 physicians, medical residents and medical students. It plays a key role by representing the interests of these members and their patients on the national stage. Located in Ottawa, the CMA has roots across the country through its close ties to its 12 provincial and territorial divisions.
xiv Sources: Physician visits - CIHI - Physicians in Canada: Fee-for-Service Utilization 2005-2006. Table 1-21. Hospital contacts - CIHI - Trends in Acute Inpatient Hospitalizations and Day surgery Visits in Canada 1995-1996 to 2005-2006 and CIHI -National Ambulatory Care Reporting System - Visit Disposition by Triage Level for All Emergency Visits - 2005-2006.
xvAdvantage Canada builds on Canada's strengths and seeks to gain a global competitive advantage in five areas:
1. Tax Advantage-Reducing taxes for all Canadians and establishing the lowest tax rate on new business investment in the G7.
2. Fiscal Advantage-Eliminating Canada's total government net debt in less than a generation.
3. Entrepreneurial Advantage-Reducing unnecessary regulation and red tape and increasing competition in the Canadian marketplace.
4. Knowledge Advantage-Creating the best-educated, most-skilled and most flexible workforce in the world.
5. Infrastructure Advantage-Building the modern infrastructure we need.
CLASS 12 , (100 per cent)
Property not included in any other class that is....
(o) computer software acquired after May 25, 1976, but not including systems software or property acquired after August 8, 1989 and before 1993 that is described in paragraph (s).
CLASS 45 , (45 per cent)
Property acquired after March 22, 2004 (other than property acquired before 2005 in respect of which an election is made under subsection 1101(5q)) that is general-purpose electronic data processing equipment and systems software for that equipment, including ancillary data processing equipment.
(a) electronic process control or monitor equipment;
(b) electronic communications control equipment;
(c) systems software for equipment referred to in paragraph (a) or (b); or
(d) data handling equipment (other than data handling equipment that is ancillary to general-purpose electronic data processing equipment).
Class 50 (55 per cent)
Property acquired after March 18, 2007 that is general-purpose electronic data processing equipment and systems software for that equipment, including ancillary data processing equipment, but not including property that is principally or is used principally as
(a) electronic process control or monitor equipment;
(b) electronic communications control equipment;
(c) systems software for equipment referred to in paragraph (a) or (b); or
(d) data handling equipment (other than data handling equipment that is ancillary to general-purpose electronic data processing equipment).
xviii Health Council of Canada, Rekindling Reform: Health Care Renewal in Canada, 2003 - 2008, June 2008 (page 23).
(Table does not display correctly -- See PDF)
Table 1 -Health Interconnectivity investments over five years.
Figure 2 -Major Canadian health centers are well below industry IT investment standard
Based on a well-established collaboration addressing concussion, the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM) the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) are pleased to submit this brief to the Subcommittee on Sport-Related Concussions (SCSC) of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health.
About the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM)
CASEM is a physician member-based organization comprised of 850 medical doctors from many specialties who have specialized training and skills in sport and exercise related injuries/illnesses for active patients of all ages and abilities, including concussion care. CASEM physicians hold national and international leadership roles in concussion care. Namely, at the national level, CASEM chairs the Canadian Concussion Collaborative (CCC) and at the international level, several CASEM members played leadership roles in the development of the International Consensus Statements on Concussion in Sport which is the key document that establishes concussion management recommendation every 4 years.
About the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC)
The CFPC is the professional organization that represents more than 38,000 family physician members across the country. The College establishes the standards for, and accredits, postgraduate family medicine training for Canada’s 17 medical schools. It reviews and certifies continuing professional development programs, and materials, that enable family physicians to meet certification and licensing requirements. The CFPC provides high-quality services, supports family medicine teaching and research, and advocates on behalf of family physicians and the specialty of family medicine.
About the Canadian Medical Association (CMA)
The Canadian Medical Association unites 85,000 physicians on national health and medical matters. Formed in Quebec City in 1867, the CMA’s rich history of advocacy led to some of Canada’s most important health policy changes. As we look to the future, the CMA will focus on advocating for a healthy population and a vibrant profession. Along with CASEM, the CMA is a co-founding member of the CCC.
KEY KEY THEMESTHEMES AND RECOMMENDATIONSAND RECOMMENDATIONS:
In this brief, CASEM, CFPC, and the CMA submit a series of recommendations under two key themes. Taken as a whole, we believe these will help inform the Subcommittee’s study on how to improve concussion awareness, prevention and treatment for all Canadians. Background information regarding the groups and initiatives mentioned in the key themes and recommendations, is provided in the subsequent part of this document.
KEY THEME #1:
The impacts of concussion and the benefits of awareness efforts are slowly becoming better known at the higher levels of sport participation that received support for the implementation of proper concussion management strategies (namely through the Canadian Concussion Protocol Harmonization Project). Further efforts and government funding should address the issue at all levels of sport participation. This must include school-based sport programs, and concussion occurring in other contexts (e.g. leisure, occupation, etc.).
RECOMMENDATIONS related to key theme #1:
#1.1 The federal government should commission and fund the development and evaluation of additional efforts to improve awareness and proper management of concussion at all levels of sport participation and contexts where concussions occur in Canada.
#1.2 Since “key aspects of concussion prevention, detection and management occur prior to, as well as after, the initial medical intervention”1, “public health strategies should be developed and implemented to address the issue of concussions.”1
#1.3 Given their competencies and expertise in this area, “family physicians2 and sport and exercise medicine (SEM) physicians should play a central role in the design and implementation of strategies that work in conjunction with families, schools, sports organizations, employers and governments to educate, support and empower the implementation of proper concussion prevention, detection and management protocols.”1
#1.4 Any future effort to improve concussion awareness and management should, whenever possible, be evidenced-informed, and aim for synergy with ongoing Canadian initiatives.
#1.5 Innovative dissemination strategies that have the potential to reach all levels of sport participation and contexts where concussions occur should be considered and evaluated (e.g. massive open online course or MOOC 3).
1 The Role of Family Physicians and physicians with Added Competencies in Sport and Exercise Medicine in a Public Health Approach to Concussions. A joint position statement of CASEM, CFPC, and the CMA. 2017 https://www.cfpc.ca/ProjectAssets/Templates/Resource.aspx?id=4319&langType=4105
2 This is not meant to exclude the possible role of other health care disciplines, such as nurse practitioners, that can be involved in the diagnosis and medical management of concussions in some Canadian jurisdictions.
KEY THEME #2:
For the majority of Canadians affected by a concussion, family physicians play a central role in concussion identification and management through the recovery process. However, where persistent concussion symptoms arise, family physicians and their patients require timely access to SEM physicians, and multidisciplinary care for the development and implementation of individualized treatment plans. As it presently stands, access to such expert medical and multidisciplinary resources for concussion is very limited (especially in rural and remote regions). To complicate matters, Canadians affected by a concussion are all too often uncertain how best to navigate a health care system that isn’t well organized to address their unique needs.
RECOMMENDATIONS related to key theme #2:
#2.1 Medical schools and organizations should maintain continuous efforts aiming for the rapid integration of the most current clinical practice recommendations about concussion.
#2.2 Initial care for Canadians affected by a concussion should be coordinated by the patient’s family physician.
#2.3 To work in collaboration with their family physicians, patients affected by persistent symptoms following a concussion should have timely access to medical experts on concussion and allied professionals with expertise in concussion management.
#2.4 The potential of telemedicine strategies or other virtual network to improve access to concussion experts for support in the management of concussion should be considered and evaluated. BACKGROUNDBACKGROUND::
The challenging dynamics of concussion: Sport-related concussion seriously impacts the health and well-being of Canadians across the country; to say nothing of the costs to the health care system and concussed individuals. Canadian statistics show that among children and youth (10-18 years) who visit an emergency department for a sports-related head injury, 39% were diagnosed with concussions, while a further 24% were possible concussions.4
Between 2003 and 2013 in Ontario, a 4.4-fold increase of pediatric concussion-related consultations has been observed, with a sharp increase between 2010 and 2013 and nearly 35000 visits in 2013.5 Although, the precise reasons for this increased incidence of concussion are unknown, the study suggests that “…concussion education and awareness, improved diagnosis of
5 Zemek et al. J Pediatr 2017; 181: 222-8 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.10.067)
concussion, and revised concussion guidelines advocating stricter follow-up…” played an important role.
The body of knowledge regarding concussion is rapidly and constantly changing; a dynamic that is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. One important limitation of our knowledge about concussion is the lack of information on the true burden of concussion in Canada. A significant proportion of all concussions are not captured by traditional health-related databases, or clinical research, because individuals often do not consult a physician. One positive and recent development that will help better understand the true burden of sport related concussion in youth occurred in November 2018 when a group of more than 30 Canadian researchers including CASEM and CFPC leaders on concussion received $12 million from the National Football League “Play Smart, Play Safe” initiative.6 This 3-year longitudinal cohort study will evaluate diagnostic tools, prognostic indicators, prevention strategies, and treatment strategies. This study will characterize the true incidence rate and recovery characteristics of concussion in high school-based sport settings.
Psychological and social factors must also be considered. Attitudes and awareness towards injury are complicating factors that highlight the need for improved concussion prevention and awareness. These include injury minimization, the lack of a visible injury, and a general lack of both pre and post-injury awareness. Those closely associated with a concussed individual (coaches, co-workers, employers, or an injured individual themselves) may have an incentive, or experience pressure, to hide/downplay injury or avoid medical assessment due to stigma.7 The natural human predilection towards downplaying the nature of injury is another important factor to consider, especially where, post-injury, the effects aren’t clearly visible. A concussed individual may lack the mental acuity to be able to understand that their symptoms require medical attention.
Another area to consider is the availability of qualified health care resources. Family physicians, whether in primary care settings or emergency departments, and SEM physicians, are generally the first medical professionals seen by a person who has sustained a concussion during a sport, leisure or occupational activity. They are the first point of contact for proper management, advice, and education regarding that person’s gradual return to cognitive (e.g. school and work) and physical activities (e.g. sport, exercise or work).8 Gaps in medical training, and the fast-paced evolution of concussion best practices, means that clinicians sometimes struggle to maintain up-to-date knowledge regarding the detection and treatment of concussions. These factors are further complicated by ambiguous scopes of practice across the multidisciplinary professions involved
7 Delaney J, Caron J, Correa J, et al. Why Professional Football Players Choose not to Reveal their Concussion Symptoms During a Practice or Game. Clin J Sport Med, 2018, 28(1): 1-12.
8 College of Family Physicians of Canada & Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise. Joint Position Statement - The Role of Family Physicians and Physicians with Added Competencies in Sport and Exercise Medicine in a Public Health Approach to Concussions. 2017.
with concussion management. Finally, there is general lack of available medical experts on concussion to whom family physicians can refer patients that present persistent symptoms.
Our recommendations also take into consideration the following factors:
The simple principles of initial concussion management6-8 are within the scope of practice of family physicians.
In the vast majority (80-90%) of cases, once simple principles of initial management have been implemented, concussion is a condition that will evolve favorably within 7-10 days.8
Even with proper initial management, some concussion patients will present with persistent symptoms that require a multidisciplinary team approach.
“Persistent symptoms” has been defined as more than 4 weeks in youth and more than 2 weeks in adults.9
Access to physicians with added competencies in concussion care (e.g. SEM Physicians, Physiatrists, Neurologists), and allied health professionals with experience in treating specific presentations of concussions is limited, especially in Canada’s rural and remote areas.
CASEM & CFPC’s concussion efforts to date: Since 2012, CASEM has played a key role in the evolution of concussion care in Canada by leading the work of the CCC10. The CCC is composed of 18 health organizations concerned with concussions that aim “to improve education about concussions, and the implementation of best practices for the prevention and management of concussions”. The CFPC has been involved with the CCC from the start. In 2015, the CCC published 2 key recommendations in a document entitled “Recommendations for policy development regarding sport-related concussion prevention and management in Canada”11 that state:
Organizations responsible for operating, regulating or planning sport and sporting events with a risk of concussion should be required to develop/adapt and implement a concussion management protocol, based on current best practices, that is customized for their context and available resources.
In situations where timely and sufficient availability of medical resources qualified for concussion management is lacking, multidisciplinary collaborative approaches should be used to improve concussion management outcomes while facilitating access to medical resources where appropriate.
Since 2015, the CCC has contributed a multidisciplinary health care perspective to key concussion-related initiatives in Canada. The first of these initiatives was initiated in January 2015 by Sport Canada and led to the creation of a Federal-Provincial-Territorial working group (FTP-WG) on
9 McCrory et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport. (2017) https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/11/838
concussion that brings together sport, education, government and health stakeholders. Later in 2015, the mandate letters from Prime Minister Trudeau asked the Minister of Health and the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities to collaborate on a national strategy on concussion. The Federal government budgeted $1.4 million to allow the Public Health Agency of Canada to work with provinces and territories to develop harmonized concussion management guidelines across Canada.12 Most of that work has been accomplished by funding to Parachute for the development of the Canadian guideline on concussion in sport.13 Members of the CCC and concussion leaders from the CFPC and CASEM were closely involved.
Since 2016, one of the CASEM and CFPC leaders on concussion developed a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to develop general awareness on concussion and facilitate the implementation of proper concussion management protocols in specific settings. After 4 iterations of that French language MOOC, over 8000 participants have accessed it. Presently an English version is being developed in collaboration between Laval University and the University of Calgary.
In August 2017, CASEM and CFPC, published a joint position statement entitled “The role of family physicians and physicians with added competencies in sport and exercise medicine in a public health approach to concussions”14 that is directly related to the recommendations presented in this brief.
Finally, since mid-2018, CASEM and CFPC have partnered with the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) to completely revamp the CMA’s policy on Head Injury in Sport. To foster high-level advocacy, cultural sensitivity, and awareness messaging on concussion, it has been redeveloped for a host of target audiences from all relevant perspectives. It is set for release in early 2019.
Concussion is a pressing public health issue in Canada. The members of the SCSC should keep in mind that concussions are not limited to higher level organized sport. It’s a sudden, and unwanted challenge that hundreds of unsuspecting and unprepared Canadians face each day. These concussions occur in a range of situations, inside and outside of sports settings, and often go untreated; with a potential for tragic consequences.
To truly address the issue and make progress towards the objectives expressed by Prime Minister Trudeau in the mandate letters, the Government of Canada must provide significant investments. To make progress across the spectrum of sports, leisure and other context where concussions
12 https://www.budget.gc.ca/2016/docs/plan/ch5-en.html 13 The Canadian guideline on concussion in sport was part of the Parachute-led Concussion Protocol Harmonization Project.
occur, the Government funding should minimally represent a 10-fold increase from the initial $1.4M budgeted in 2016.
With their respective membership, tools and resources, CASEM and the CFPC can play an important role in addressing the burden that concussions place on Canadians. With this brief, we are expressing the willingness of our organizations to collaborate with the government in the design and implementation of strategies to systemically address concussion from all causes as a public health issue. To be successful this must occur across all levels of sport participation and include: leisure, school-based sports, occupational activities and address the rural and remote areas of the country.
On behalf of CASEM, and the CFPC, we would welcome the opportunity, and privilege, to present and discuss these recommendations with your Committee.
Dr. Paul Watson
Dr. Pierre Fremont
Chair of the CFPC’s SEM Committee and Past President of CASEM
Past President of CASEM
Dr. Gigi Osler
Contacts: Dawn Haworth, Executive Director, CASEM
613 748 5851 – ext 1
Artem Safarov, Director of Health Policy and Government Relations, CFPC
905-629-0900 x 249
Over the last year, CMA has become increasingly concerned that debate on the issues concerning health information have been framed in terms of access to information with an attendant erosion of privacy and confidentiality. This one-sided approach comes at a time of expansion in our capacity to collect, store, merge, transfer and access information, coupled with trends both in the health care sector and generally related to the use of information To address these concerns and to ensure that privacy and confidentiality in the medical context are valued, protected and preserved, CMA developed and adopted a Health Information Privacy Code. This Code should form the basis of all legislation governing the collection, use and disclosure of health information.
Health information is special by its nature. Rules relating to health information must be developed in recognition of its special nature. Ensuring protection of privacy and confidentiality of the patient record must take precedence over other considerations. Bill C-54 fails to do this. Bill C-54 is written from the perspective of encouraging commerce. It appears to have access to information as its dominant value. CMA considers the world of health care to be very different from that of commerce and consequently requiring distinct rules.
Health information use must, in all but exceptional and justifiable circumstances, occur only under the strict control of the patient. The patient must be able to exercise control through voluntary, informed consent. Bill C-54 permits the collection, use and disclosure of information without knowledge or consent on grounds such as expediency, practicality, public good, research, offence investigation, historic importance and artistic purpose. The evident lack of protection accorded health information based on such ground, is unacceptable. The absence of protection undermines the integrity of the patient-physician relationship and has the potential to erode the trust patients have in their physicians - a trust that is essential to patients’ willingness to provide the complete information needed to provide them with care. Moreover, distinctions must be made between a patient’s right to know what can or must happen to health information and the right to consent to such use.
Not all purposes for the collection and use of health information are equal. Collection and use beyond the therapeutic context should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny before they are permitted to occur. Bill C-54 fails to make such a distinction and treats all purposes that could be identified for information collection or use as equal. Moreover, the Bill has no mechanism to distinguish legitimate purposes, which should be permitted from illegitimate purposes, which should not.
In light of the clear deficits in Bill C-54 and the inadequate protection of patient privacy and health information confidentiality, CMA makes the following recommendations:
That Bill C-54 be amended to incorporate specific provisions relating to health information and that the provisions of the CMA Code provide the basis of such provisions; and
That the proposed rules for health legislation be subject to the legislative test found in CMA’s Code and formulated in light of this process; and
That there be a clear definition of the information being accorded a right of privacy and that this definition, at least in the case of health information, include identifiable information, delinked information, anonymous information and any composite form produced when information is linked to any information about a person from any other source; and
That, at least in connection with health information, the provisions of the Bill apply equally to the public and the private sectors.
The Canadian Medical Association is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Our mission is to provide leadership for physicians and to promote the highest standard of health and health care for Canadians. The CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing the majority of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial divisions and 43 affiliated medical organizations. On behalf of its 45,000 members and the Canadian public, CMA performs a wide variety of functions, including addressing the emerging issue of electronic health information and confidentiality and privacy. It is in this capacity that we present our position on Bill C 54, The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
CMA commends the government for taking the first, important step of beginning the debate on the protection of personal information. The issues are complex and the interests at stake significant. CMA welcomes the opportunity to provide comments on Bill C-54. CMA hopes that its input will strengthen the Bill by ensuring that patient privacy and the confidentiality of medical records are adequately protected. In preparing this brief CMA has had the benefit of the final report of the federal Advisory Council on Health Infostructure, Canada Health Infoway: Paths to Better Health: Final Report. (“Advisory Council Report”) Where appropriate, CMA cites the findings contained in the report.
CMA wishes to underscore the key themes of its brief:
A. Health information is special by its nature. Rules relating to health information must be developed in recognition of its special nature. Ensuring protection of privacy and confidentiality of the patient record must take precedence over other considerations. Bill C-54 fails to do this. Bill C-54 is written from the perspective of encouraging commerce. It appears to have access to information as its dominant value. CMA considers the world of health care to be very different from that of commerce and consequently requiring distinct rules.
B. Health information use must, in all but exceptional and justifiable circumstances, occur only under the strict control of the patient. The patient must be able to exercise control through voluntary, informed consent. Bill C-54 permits the collection, use and disclosure of information without knowledge or consent on grounds such as expediency, practicality, public good, research, offence investigation, historic importance and artistic purpose. The evident lack of protection accorded health information based on such ground, is unacceptable. The absence of protection undermines the integrity of the patient-physician relationship and has the potential to erode the trust patients have in their physicians - a trust that is essential to patients’ willingness to provide the complete information needed to provide them with care. Moreover, distinctions must be made between a patient’s right to know what can or must happen to health information and the right to consent to such use.
C. Not all purposes for the collection and use of health information are equal. Collection and use beyond the therapeutic context should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny before they are permitted to occur. Bill C-54 fails to make such a distinction and treats all purposes that could be identified for information collection or use as equal. Moreover, the Bill has no mechanism to distinguish legitimate purposes, which should be permitted from illegitimate purposes, which should not.
This brief will first look at the apparent rationale of Bill C-54 and its potential application to health information. The brief will next describe why CMA considers health information to be special in nature and worthy of special protection. Finally, the brief reviews the difference in approach between Bill C-54 and CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code to illustrate that Bill C-54 provides inadequate protection to patient privacy and health record confidentiality.
II. Rationale and Scope of Bill C-54
A. Rational of Bill C-54
The driving force behind Bill C-54 is the support and promotion of electronic commerce. The second part of the Bill is devoted to permitting electronic versions of documents and signatures to be legitimate or ‘originals’ if the provisions of the Act are followed. Part two of the Bill is quite distinct from part one and both parts could stand alone as separate pieces of legislation.
Part two simply allows electronic versions of documents and signatures to be recognized as legitimate. On its face, this has little to do with the protection of personal information except to the extent that storage of documents in electronic form provides greater ability to access, link and merge information. Certainly, the Bill appears to draw on this connection by including, in its statement of purpose, the provision of a right of privacy in an era in which technology increasingly facilitates the collection and free flow of information.
Part one concerns all forms of information, electronic and otherwise. It gives some protection to personal information by requiring consent in some instances. In CMA’s view, a fundamental difficulty with part one and the Bill in general is that it’s goal is to promote commerce and thus all information is implicitly considered as falling within the ‘commercial’ realm. In the case of health information this is surely not the case or the only consideration. Moreover, this creates a clash of values when applied to a health care system that is a public system. The Advisory Council Report takes a hard line on this issue and states that legislation respecting the privacy protection of health information, “should also contain a clear prohibition against all secondary commercial use of personal health information.”
Because all information is subjected to similar rules, there is no attempt within the Bill to distinguish some purposes for collecting information from other purposes. The Bill takes the approach that the purposes should be known and documented. While not stated explicitly, the assumption is that all purposes identified are legitimate and are permitted. CMA has quite a different view when it comes to health information and will expound its view throughout this brief.
B. Scope - Application to Medical Records
CMA is uncertain whether or to what extent Bill C-54 will apply to health records. The full name of the Act states, in part:
An Act to support and promote electronic commerce by protecting personal information that is collected, used or disclosed in certain circumstances....
What are these circumstances?
Section 4(1) states that Part 1 (the part protecting personal information) applies in respect of personal information that:
(a) the organization collects, uses or discloses in the course of commercial activities;
(b) the organization collects, uses or discloses interprovincially or internationally; or
(c) is about an employee of the organization and that the organization collects, uses or discloses in connection with the operation of a federal work, undertaking or business.
It should further be noted that three years after the Act is in force it will apply equally to activities that occur strictly within the province unless there is legislation in the province that is substantially similar to the Bill (see sections 27(2)(d) and section 30).
The first issue is the provision of section 4(1)(a) - collection, use and disclosure in the course of commercial activities. There seems to be an assumption on the part of government that this automatically excludes health records, (although the Act fails to define what is meant by commercial activity). Is this accurate or does the assumption fail to recognize that there is not a clear, unambiguous distinction between what might constitute commercial activity or other activity?
There are two points to be made here. The first concerns clarity around where commercial ends and health care begins. Which health care settings that operate for profit are excluded from the Act? This question speaks to the difficulty of delineating what activity is considered health care and what activity is considered commercial. Moreover it recognizes that the increased encouragement to public/private funding of endeavours within the health care sector may make it increasingly difficult to make this distinction; for example in the area of research.
The second concerns the movement of health information from the health care setting (recognizing that this is not easily distinguished from the commercial setting) to the commercial setting; for example, health information provided to insurance companies. When health care information is collected in a health care setting and transferred to a commercial setting, which rules apply - Bill C-54 or no rules?
In CMA’s view, there is no clear way of distinguishing commercial activity from health care activity in a way that ensures that the health care record is subject to different rules than those pertaining to other records. Moreover, the dilemma for government is that even if such distinction could occur, would it be desirable that health records be subject to no rules? Put in another way, will those organizations that currently collect health care information be entitled to claim that since the information forms part of the health record they are not subject to the provisions of C-54? Under such a regime health care records would be subject to an even lower standard than that provided for information collected in the commercial context.
In terms of the provisions of 4(1)(b) - interprovincial and international transfer of information. This appears to apply to all information. In the existing environment and developments such as the “health information highway,” interprovincial transfers of information, the capacity for the central collection and storage of information, mechanisms such as telephone and cable to transfer information and general trends related to population health, it seems likely that interprovincial traffic will grow rather than diminish. The significance of this section, therefore, cannot be underestimated.
Finally, the provisions of 4(1)(c) may well contain health information about the employee.
In preparing this brief CMA has assumed that the Bill will provide a scheme that applies to some health information. No doubt the extent of the federal governments ability to legislate in this area generally will be the subject of extensive debate. However, CMA has no comment on this debate and provides its opinion in the interests of ensuring that the rules that relate to health information are compatible with preserving the integrity of the patient-physician relationship and the protection of patient privacy and health information confidentiality. CMA considers that the government has an opportunity to provide Canadians with strong privacy rights in health information. Indeed, CMA believes that it is incumbent upon the government to do so.
C. Scope - Government Excluded
Bill C-54 expressly excludes a large part of government activity from its ambit. While government activity is to some extent governed by the Privacy Act, R.S.C. 1985, P-21, the rules of this act provide less protection than those of Bill C-54. Government should subject itself to at least the same rules that it requires of the private sector in so far as it is a collector and user of information. Moreover, CMA is of the view that government’s practices relating to the collection, storage, merging, transfer and use of health information must be subject to more stringent rules than those found in either the Privacy Act or Bill C-54. The Advisory Council Report also calls for the same rules to apply to the public and private sectors, rules that are more stringent than those found in the Privacy Act or Bill C-54.
Therefore, CMA recommends:
That, at least in connection with health information, the provisions of the Bill apply equally to the public and the private sectors.
III. Considerations Regarding Patient Privacy and Confidentiality: Medical Context Versus Commercial Context
A. CMA’s Opinion
Over the last year, CMA has become increasingly concerned that debate on the issues concerning health information have been framed in terms of access to information with an attendant erosion of privacy and confidentiality. This one-sided approach comes at a time of expansion in our capacity to collect, store, merge, transfer and access information, coupled with trends both in the health care sector and generally related to the use of information
To address these concerns and to ensure that privacy and confidentiality in the medical context are valued, protected and preserved, CMA developed and adopted a Health Information Privacy Code, which is appended to and forms part of this brief. In commenting on this Code the Advisory Council Report notes:
The code represents an important contribution to the deliberations of Canadians and legislators on how to safeguard privacy across the health domain.
There are a number of principles underpinning the Health Information Privacy Code:
1. The provision of health care to all Canadians irrespective of social circumstances or health status is a highly regarded value in Canadian society. The system is publicly funded and universally accessible.
2. The right of privacy is fundamental to a free and democratic society.
3. Rules relating to health information must recognize its special nature. Health information has a high level of sensitivity, it is confided or collected in circumstances of vulnerability and trust for the primary purpose of benefiting the patient.
4. Physicians now and historically promise that they will keep their patients’ information secret; this is a hallmark of the profession.
5. The patient-physician relationship is one of trust and a central feature of this trust is the belief in patients that information confided in or collected by physicians and other health care providers will be kept secret.
6. Patients believe that the information they disclose or that is gathered as a result of their seeking health care will be used to provide them with health care; uses beyond the provision of health care without knowledge or consent go beyond what a patient’s reasonable expectations were when information was disclosed or gathered and is a breach of the trust patients place in their physicians.
7. Except in very limited circumstances, consent is required for health information collection, use, disclosure or access for any purpose.
8. Information required to provide patients with the health care sought should be readily available to those who require it to provide an aspect of care.
9. Uses of health information for purposes other than the provision of health care to the person seeking care should be subject to rules that:
- protect and promote privacy and confidentiality;
- generally require express consent;
- can be justified according to specific criteria.
10. Patients should know the uses to which their health information is put prior to their disclosure of it.
11. Patients may be reluctant to disclose information if they are concerned about the uses to which the information is put or the persons entitled to access it.
B. Public Opinion
To determine the public’s view on these issues, CMA commissioned Angus Reid to conduct research in two forms, quantative (survey) and qualitative (focus groups), and has found the following:
1. Patients believe that their health information will be kept confidential and consider this to be important.
2. Patients believe it important to know and control how their health information is shared with others.
3. Patients do not want their health information released to third parties (including governments and researchers) without their knowledge and consent.
4. Patients may have concerns about the release of delinked or anonymous information to third parties without their consent.
5. Patients may be reluctant to confide information as a result of concerns related to its use or disclosure.
These findings are consistent with general findings relating to the public’s concerns about privacy and confidentiality.
C. The Advisory Council Report
The Advisory Council Report relates to the electronic health record. However, given the direction towards the greater use of technology and the underlying principles informing the Advisory Council, CMA believes that the recommendations are generalizable to all health information.
A key principle of the Advisory Council is that access by health care professionals should be based on a need-to-know basis under the strict control of the patient. The Council, like CMA calls for scrutiny and justification of secondary uses of health information. The Council is opposed to the use of multipurpose identifiers on the grounds that it becomes too easy for government officials from one department to gain access to a person’s health record or combine a number of records to assemble a comprehensive profile. (Anecdotal evidence suggests that this concern may be justified and that there are insufficient safeguards preventing the flow of health information among government departments) The Council recommends that all governments ensure that they have legislation to address privacy protection specifically aimed at protecting personal health information through explicit and transparent mechanisms. Included in these mechanisms are:
* The provision of a precise definition of free and informed consent, as well as a statement of principle that informed consent should be the basis for sharing personal health information;
* Any exemption to the requirement of informed consent should be clearly set out in law. More specifically, legislative guidance should be provided on how to balance the right of privacy with the public good for research purposes to implement a coherent and harmonized pan-Canadian system for independent, ethical review.
* There should be provisions regulating secondary uses of non-identifiable health information. These provisions should address privacy concern surrounding the degree to which data might be linked back to an identifiable individual.
* Legislation should set clear limits on access to and use of health information by third parties outside the health care system. To prevent the serious invasions of privacy that can result from the unrestricted linking of personal health information with other kinds of information on the same individual, the legislation should contain provisions prohibiting the use for any other purpose of unique personal identifiers in health information systems.
D. The Approach in Bill C-54
Bill C-54 is inadequate in its protection of health information. The Bill makes a meagre attempt at distinguishing among varying types of personal information and gives no additional protection to information that is highly sensitive (such as health information). The Bill permits the collection, use and disclosure of information without knowledge or consent on grounds such as expediency, practicality, public good, research, offence investigation, historic importance and artistic purposes. In the context of health information, these grounds should be subject to intense scrutiny to determine their relevance and legitimacy. In CMA’s view and according to the tests established in the CMA’s Code, some of these grounds would not withstand such scrutiny.
CMA’s Code offers a template for the protection that should be accorded health information, a template that appears to have some public support and that strives to retain patient confidence in their physicians and the health care system. The Report of the Federal Advisory Council also recognizes that special rules are required for health information. The Council’s Report places strong emphasis on the protection of privacy, recognizes that as a general rule the flow of health information should be on a need-to-know basis and under the control of the patient through the exercise of free and informed consent and requires limits on the secondary use of health information. In CMA’s view, Bill C-54 should incorporate specific rules relating to health information and CMA’s Code should form the basis of these rules. CMA recommends:
That Bill C-54 be amended to incorporate specific provisions relating to health information and that the provisions of the CMA Code provide the basis of such provisions.
In addition, CMA’s Code provides a test that legislation addressing health information should be subjected to. This test (found in section 3.6 of the CMA Code) states:
Any proposed or existing legislation or regulation made under legislative authority that permits or requires health information collection, use, disclosure or access shall be subjected to the following legislative test:
(a) There must be demonstration that:
(i) a patient privacy impact assessment has been conducted, the analysis has been made public and has been duly considered prior to the introduction of legislation [section 3.5 of the Code provides guidance with respect to the patient privacy impact assessment];
(ii) collection, use, disclosure and access will be limited to the greatest degree possible to ensure that
* the collection of health information by persons external to the therapeutic context will neither trade on nor compromise the trust of the patient-physician relationship;
* patients are not likely to be inhibited from confiding information for primary purposes;
* the ability of physicians to discharge their fiduciary duties to patients will not be compromised; and,
* patient vulnerability will not be exploited;
(iii) collection, use, disclosure and access will be restricted to what is necessary for the identified purpose(s) and will not impede the confiding or collection of information for primary purposes;
(iv) provisions exist for ensuring that patients are provided with knowledge about the purpose(s) and that, subject to 3.6(b), patient consent is clearly voluntary;
(v) the means used are proportionate and the collection will be limited to purposes consented to or made known to the patient;
(vi) the patient’s privacy will be intruded upon to the most limited degree possible in light of the purpose(s) consented to or made known to the patient;
(vii) linkage of the health information will be limited; and
(viii) unless clear and compelling reasons exist:
* all reasonable steps will be taken to make health information anonymous; and
* if it has been demonstrated that making health information anonymous would render it inadequate for legitimate uses, the information will be collected and stored in a deidentified-relinkable format.
(b) When nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access is permitted or required by legislation or regulation that meets the requirements of the Code, the following conditions must also be met:
(i) the right of privacy has to be violated because the purpose(s) could not be met adequately if patient consent is required; and
(ii) the importance of the purpose(s) must be demonstrated to justify the infringement of the patient’s right of privacy in a free and democratic society.
(c) Any legislative provision or regulation that permits or requires health information collection, use, disclosure or access nonconsensually shall not, without compelling reasons, be applied retroactively to existing health information.
In its current form, Bill C-54 would not pass the scrutiny of the test. Consequently, CMA recommends:
That the proposed rules for health legislation be subject to the legislative test found in CMA’s Code and formulated in light of this process.
IV. Specific Comments on Bill C-54 From the Perspective of CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code
This section highlights some key distinctions between the approach taken by Bill C-54 and CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code. The purpose of this section is to illustrate through examples the divergence of approaches taken with the ultimate aim of demonstrating that Bill C-54 is inadequate in the protection it accords health information.
Bill C-54 and CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code are based on the Canadian Standards Association’s Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information (CSA Code). Bill C-54 and the CMA Code also augment the CSA Code’s provisions where considered necessary. The need to extend the provisions of the CSA Code demonstrates that the CSA Code, being general in nature, provides inadequate protection to information in many instances.
Although Bill C-54 and the CMA Code are based on the CSA Code, each takes a different approach to the ultimate protection accorded information. This divergence demonstrates that there are many ways to resolve issues left unresolved by the CSA Code. In other words, it is not a foregone conclusion that basing provisions on the CSA Code will result in appropriate or adequate protection of information. Rather, resolution of issues requires thought and deliberation and will depend in some measure on the primacy given to certain values. Bill C-54 appears to have given access primacy in the pursuit of commerce, whereas CMA gives privacy protection primacy in the pursuit of the provision of health care in accordance with physicians fiduciary obligations to patients and the integrity of the patient-physical relationship.
CMA did not develop its approach in a vacuum. It reviewed and was inspired by the report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled Privacy: Where Do We Draw the Line? This report articulates and makes explicit many of the issues that should be informing the current debate on Bill C-54. In addition, the Report of the Advisory Council takes a very different approach to Bill C-54. The Report recognizes the need to pay more than lip service to protecting privacy and confidentiality and recommends specific measures aimed at doing this.
B. Information Protected
The Bill covers “personal information” which is defined to mean “information about an identifiable individual that is recorded in any form.” This definition raises a host of questions:
1. Does the Bill cover or not information that has been delinked to an identifiable individual but that could be relinked to identify them?
2. Does the Bill only exclude anonymous information - that is, information that could never be relinked to an indentifiable individual? And if so, is there an unjustified assumption that information can, in all cases, be rendered truly anonymous?
3. In the case of delinked and anonymous information, who decides that information about an identifiable individual can be rendered delinked or anonymous? The holder of the information or the person to whom the information pertains?
4. Is it accurate or reasonable to assume that people have no interest in information emanating from them once it has been rendered delinked or anonymous?
CMA Health Information Privacy Code
The CMA Code provides a broad definition of health information:
Health information means any information about a patient that is confided or collected in the therapeutic context, including information created or generated from this information and information that is not directly or indirectly linked to the provision of health care. It includes all information formats.
In addition, the CMA Code covers identifiable information, delinked information, anonymous information and any composite form that is produced when health information is linked to other information about the patient.
CMA’s research indicates that patients may have an interest in their information when it is in delinked and anonymous formats.
Advisory Council Report
The Advisory Council Report addresses this issue in a number of ways. In making recommendations concerning the definition of health information the Report calls for legislation that embodies:
a clear definition of health information, broad enough to incorporate health information collected in public and private systems and to ensure that equal obligations and penalties apply to both public and private sectors.
The report recognizes a spectrum of data formats: completely anonymous, linked to pseudo-identities, code linked and reidentifiable, completely identifiable. In terms of sensitivity, the Report notes that information that can be re-identified is somewhat more sensitive that completely anonymous data or anonymous data linked to pseudo-identities and that completely identifiable health information is the most sensitive type of health information. The Report also notes that there can be some degree of risk of re-identification of what was believed to be anonymous data through such processes as data matching and the results of analysis using small cells. In this light, the Report recommends:
A definition of personal health information, which takes into account the spectrum of potential identifiability in the case of health information.
Furthermore, in the case of secondary uses of health information, the Report notes that provisions regulating secondary uses of non-identifiable health information must form part of the legislation. Such provisions should address privacy concerns surrounding the degree to which data might be linked back to an identifiable individual.
The Report raises further issues relating to the use of delinked and anonymous data. The Report notes that there may be group interests and concerns regarding data collected and states:
Privacy can also be a concern for groups such as Aboriginal and immigrant communities. These communities worry that research on their members could be released to the media without notice and used in a negative way. This emerging issue is growing in importance and, in the Council’s view, should be a serious consideration in the context of ethical reviews of proposed research projects.
It is important to note that in these instances it is not the fact that data is linked to an identifiable individual that is of concern. Rather, it is the ability to accumulate, process and dissect information that has ramifications for an individual because they are part of a group segregated and identified by the research.
Finally, the Report considers the use of person-based data but not people’s names, for statistical purposes and notes that this too raises concerns about privacy. The Report notes that:
“These concerns have traditionally been seen as a tradeoff against data access for research and analysis in the public interest.”
The Report restates this to provide a more positive view of privacy and states: “the best way for analysts to maintain the public’s consent to use sensitive (but anonymous) health data is to show the public that privacy, confidentiality and security are being taken seriously.”
That there be a clear definition of the information being accorded a right of privacy and that this definition, at least in the case of health information, include identifiable information, delinked information, anonymous information and any composite form produced when information is linked to any information about a person from any other source.
C. Knowledge of Purpose Prior to Collection
Bill C-54 is ambiguous in its provisions relating to whether or not a person should know the purposes for which information will be used prior to disclosure. This is due in part to the use of the term “knowledge and consent” as one concept rather than distinguishing the knowledge requirement from the consent requirement. What a person should know in relation to the purposes information might be used or disclosed for, prior to its being given is distinct conceptually from whether the person must consent before information can be used or disclosed for a particular purpose.
Schedule 1 of the Bill contains a number of principles. For the purposes of this brief the schedule will be referred to in terms of the principles (and their subparagraphs). Principle 2 addresses the identification of purposes that information will be used or disclosed for. Provided a purpose is identified it becomes a legitimate purpose under the Bill. Subparagraph 3 states that the identified purposes should be specified at or before the time of collection. Section 5(2) of the Bill states that the use of ‘should’ in schedule 1 indicates a recommendation and does not impose an obligation. Therefore, according to subparagraph 3, it is recommended but is not obligatory that disclosure occur.
On the other hand, principle 3 addresses consent and appears to impose an obligation by stating that the knowledge and consent of the individual are required for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information, except where inappropriate. Similarly subparagraph 2 appears to create something of an obligation by stating, “organizations shall make a reasonable effort to ensure that the individual is advised of the purposes for which the information will be used.”
The relationship between these sections should be clarified and made consistent.
CMA is pleased to note that principle 3 has been modified to define when, and only when, organizations may collect information without knowledge or consent. Section 7(1)(a) permits the collection of information without knowledge and consent when collection is clearly in the interests of the individual and consent cannot be obtained. The intent of this section could be made clearer, particularly in terms of who determines the “interests of the individual.” Otherwise this exception could give undesirable license to collect without knowledge or consent.
The provision in section 7(1)(b) is more problematic. This section appears to favour withholding knowledge from an individual if such knowledge would compromise accuracy, defeat the purpose for collection or prejudice the use. In some instances it may well be that if an individual is provided with knowledge of the purposes for which information is collected and the uses to which it will be put, they may choose to withhold information rather than disclose it, and in doing so would clearly compromise accuracy, defeat the purpose for collection or prejudice the use the information will be put to. This is contrary to the principle found in principle 4.1 which recognizes that information should not be collected by misleading or deceiving individuals.
The intent of this section should be far clearer and circumscribed in such a way as to make it clear that it is not permissible to withhold knowledge or not seek consent simply on the basis that if a person had knowledge they would not wish to disclose information.
Section 7(1)(c) allows collection without knowledge or consent for journalistic, artistic or literary purposes. This provision is totally inappropriate in the case of health information.
CMA Health Information Privacy Code
The CMA Code is considerably more restrictive that Bill C-54. It recognizes that in the therapeutic context, health information is confided by or collected from patients under the patient presumption that it is necessary to meet his or her therapeutic needs. CMA also believes that the potential that health information may be subsequently collected, used, disclosed or accessed for other purposes without patient consent should be made known to patients before information is confided or collected for the primary therapeutic purpose. CMA further notes that it is not acceptable to withhold knowledge from patients deliberately out of concern that knowledge could inhibit them from confiding important information fully and truthfully.
CMA limits the circumstances the nonconsensual collection of health information to those:
1. Permitted or required by legislation;
2. When ordered or decided by a court of law.
Moreover, the CMA gives explicit direction to legislators with respect to the conditions under which legislation should permit or require health information collection (see section 3.6 of CMA Code). In the case of nonconsensual collection, the following conditions are stipulated:
1. The right of privacy has to be violated because the purposes could not be met adequately if patient consent is required; and
2. The importance of the purposes must be demonstrated to justify the infringement of the patient’s right of privacy in a free and democratic society.
While Bill C-54 is clearly enabling the collection of information, it does not, in CMA’s opinion put sufficient emphasis on or provide protections that preserve privacy and confidentiality, especially in the medical context.
D. Use Without Knowledge Or Consent
Once information has been collected and despite the, albeit inadequate, limits placed on collection without knowledge or consent, it can be put to even greater use than the purposes it has been collected for with or without knowledge or consent. Section 7(2) opens up dramatically the uses to which collected information may be put without either knowledge or consent. At a minimum and without little additional administrative effort, the enumerated grounds of section 7(2) (and 7(3))should be made known to an individual prior to their disclosure of information, which would be in keeping with the principle of openness and explicitness.
Section 7(2)(a) allows use in connection with the investigation of an offence. In the medical context this might be problematic particularly if it is interpreted to impose an obligation. Generally, there is no obligation to assist in the investigation of an offence and indeed the fiduciary duty between patient and physician and the duty of confidentiality owed to the patient by the physician would suggest that physicians not offer information despite its usefulness.
Section 7(2)(b) recognizes emergency situations. However, as worded, section 7(2)(b) would allow access to anyone’s information if it is for the purpose of acting in respect of an emergency threatening the life, health or security of an individual. The implications of this section should be carefully thought through. Do we really intend to give such a broad licence to access anyone’s information on the basis of an emergency. In CMA’s view there should be some limiting principle that takes into account the prevailing view that people generally are not required to go to the assistance of others (emergency or otherwise) and that information about oneself is considered worthy of protection against use or disclosure despite its potential benefit to others for example, genetic information or HIV, Hepatitis C status.
Section 7(2)(c) is very problematic as it permits the use of “identifiable” information for a host of purposes, including statistical and research, when it is impractical to seek consent. Even though the Commissioner must be informed of the use before the information is used the Commissioner has no power to approve or reject the use, and since the use is legitimate under the Bill provided the Commissioner has been notified there would be no grounds open to the Commissioner to cause an audit to occur. This section gives significant scope to use information that has been collected without knowledge or consent and certainly in the case of health information is problematic.
CMA Health Information Privacy Code
The CMA Code makes a clear distinction between the primary purpose for the collection and use of health information and secondary purposes for its use. The key distinction between these two categories is that primary purposes relates to the provision of the health care benefit sought whereas secondary purposes are ends or aims that are not directly related to the provision of care. The CMA Code divides secondary purposes into two categories:
1. Secondary legislated purposes, those purposes that have been subjected to the legislative test specified in the Code and have subsequently been written into law;
2. Secondary nonlegislated purposes are any other purposes, such as education or research not governed by legislation, that meet the provisions of the CMA Code and the secondary nonlegislative test provided by the Code.
The tests that CMA requires both to go through relate to:
1. Impact on privacy.
2. Impact on the patient-physician relationship, especially confidentiality and trust.
3. Impact on the willingness of patients to disclose information.
4. Impact on patients’ ability to receive care.
5. Evidence of broad public support for the measure.
6. The use will not exploit or compromise the trust of the patient-physician relationship.
7. Patient vulnerability will not be exploited.
8. Under most circumstances patients will be fully informed of the purpose and patient consent will be clearly voluntary.
9. Patient privacy will be intruded upon to the most limited degree possible.
10. Linkage of health information will be restricted and consented to by patients.
In other words, CMA is not satisfied that any and all secondary purposes for the use of health information should be permitted. Rather, CMA seeks justification for the secondary use and assurance that the secondary use will neither impede nor undermine the patient-physician relationship and the provision of health care to the patient. Moreover, the CMA Code only permits use without consent if it is permitted or required by legislation or when ordered or decided by a court of law.
The Advisory Council Report
Like CMA, the Advisory Council Report makes distinctions among various types of uses. The report calls for legislation to clearly prohibit all secondary commercial use of personal health information. In addition, the Report recommends that there be provisions regulating secondary uses of non-identifiable health information and that such provisions should address privacy concerns surrounding the degree to which such data might be linked back to an identifiable individual. In this context, the Report recommends that legislation set clear limits on access to and use of health information by third parties outside the health care system.
In addition the Report reviews the uses of health information for statistical and research purposes. The Report’s findings with respect to statistical use have already been discussed. In connection with research, the Report calls for a number of safeguards and restrictions:
1. Where the data sets used have a higher level of potential identifiability, “the general rule should be informed consent and stringent assurances about privacy protection and security arrangements are necessary before a researcher can have access to personally identifiable information.”
2. The Report recognizes that in some instances it may be impractical to obtain consent from patients. Whether in anonymous or identifiable form the Report requires that notice be given about the use of the information in either form. In the case of the use of identifiable information, the Report states that the research should be subject to independent ethics review with the onus on the person seeking to use the information without consent to demonstrate that:
(a) a tangible public good of significant benefit will result;
(b) consent is impossible to secure at a reasonable cost;
(c) less identifiable data will not serve the same purpose; and
(d) no harm can occur to any person directly or indirectly [note the above discussion on group privacy] as a result of this use of his or her personal information.
E. Disclosure Without Knowledge Or Consent
The comments found under C. and D. above apply equally here. Section 7(3) adds further instances when collected information can be disclosed to others without knowledge or consent.
In the case of health information CMA takes a far more restrictive approach. In the case of use, disclosure or access the CMA Code states:
The potential that health information, in whole or in part, may be subsequently collected, used, disclosed or accessed for other purposes without their consent, and what those purposes might be, must be made know to the patient by reasonable means before it is confided or collected for primary purposes.
Moreover, the CMA Code recognizes that information disclosed by one organization is collected by another. The Code defines collection to mean:
the act of accessing, receiving, compiling, gathering, acquiring or obtaining health information from any source, including third parties, and by any means. It includes information collected from the patient, as well as secondary collection of this information in whole or in part by another provider or user.
The collecting organization should be bound by the provisions of the CMA Code, which generally requires consent for use for any purpose and always requires knowledge of the potential purposes that information will or must be put to prior to the information being disclosed. CMA’s Code states:
Health information custodians must ensure that third parties privy to health information have adopted this Code or are bound by equivalent provisions.
Finally, the CMA Code explicitly recognizes that information can be retrieved from a variety of sources to formulate records. Any and all such practices and the composite form developed are given the same degree of protection as that accorded the original data collected by or through the patient.
F. Information Flow Within Organizations
Bill C-54 defines use to include, “the transfer of personal information within an organization.” Therefore, to the extent that Bill C-54 restricts the free flow of information it restricts in within an organization. In the health care context this is not a reasonable or desirable outcome.
The CMA Code recognizes that the free flow of health information is desirable to the extent that it furthers the provision of the health care benefit sought and that it occurs with patient consent. The CMA Code defines the primary purpose to mean:
(i) Primary therapeutic purpose is the initial reason for a patient seeking or receiving care in the therapeutic context, and pertains to the delivery of health care to a particular patient with respect to the presenting health need or problem. It encompasses consultation with and referral to other providers on a need-to-know basis.
(ii) Primary longitudinal purpose concerns developing composite health information about a particular patient, such as a detailed medical history, beyond direct application to the presenting health need or problem, in order to enhance ongoing care to that person.
The Code goes on to state that:
Health information collection, use, disclosure or access for the primary therapeutic and longitudinal purposes may be as extensive as necessary to fulfil these purposes and reflect the high level of trustworthiness and accountability of health professionals in the therapeutic context.
And further states that:
Security safeguards shall impede as little as possible health information collection, use, access and disclosure for primary purposes.
Finally, in addressing consent the Code states:
Consent to health information collection, use, disclosure and access for the primary therapeutic purpose may be inferred. Consent to subsequent collection, use, disclosure and access on a need-to-know basis by or to other physicians or health providers for this purpose, and for this purpose alone, may be inferred, as long as there is no evidence that the patient would not give express consent to share the information.
G. Individual Access
Bill C-54 restricts the right of individual access to personal information. The grounds for denying access to information are inappropriate in the health care context.
The CMA Code follows the prevailing case law as it relates to medical records. Primarily this gives the patients a right of access to their record in all but very limited circumstances. These circumstances are, if there is a significant likelihood of a substantial adverse effect on the physical, mental or emotional health of the patient or substantial harm to a third party. The onus lies on the provider to justify denial of access.
H. Accuracy and Amendment
Bill C-54 requires that information be as accurate, complete and up-to-date as possible and that it shall not be routinely updated unless this is necessary to fulfil the purpose for its collection. In so far as amendment is concerned, Bill C-54 permits amendment to the record in specified circumstances.
The CMA Code takes a different approach in light of the nature and purpose of health information. The Code recognizes that the “recording of statements of fact, clinical judgements and determinations or assessments should reflect as nearly as possible what has been confided by the patient and what has been ascertained, hypothesized or determined to be true using professional judgement.” In terms of amending the record in light of a patient’s request, the CMA Code seeks to preserve the original record but also note the patient’s concerns. To accommodate both requirements the CMA Code states:
Patients who have reviewed their information and believe it to be inaccurately recorded or false have the right to suggest amendments and to have their amendments appended to the health information.
In a number of instances Bill C-54 and in particular schedule 1 recognize that medical records have a high level of sensitivity attached. Which in turns warrants special attention concerning consent, reasonable expectations, individual access and implicity, the degree of security that is appropriate.
The CMA Code seeks to recognize that while all health information is sensitive (when considered against other forms of information about individuals) there are also variations in the level of sensitivity in various aspects of the health record. The CMA Code defines the “sensitivity of health information” to refer to:
the patient’s interest in keeping the information secret. It varies according to the nature of the information, its form, and the potential negative repercussions of its collection, use or disclosure on the patient’s interests.
Under the Code’s consent provisions it is stated that:
Although all health information is sensitive and should be treated as such, the more sensitive the health information is likely to be, given what is known about the circumstances or preferences of the patient, the more important it is to ensure that consent is voluntary and informed.
With respect to security the Code states:
The development of security safeguards with respect to levels of access for various users shall recognize the differences in the sensitivity of health information and permit access accordingly.
The increased capacity to collect, store, transfer, merge and access information coupled with trends that support increased use of and access to information have the potential to erode our traditional understanding and protection of privacy and confidentiality. The issues are complex and the choices we must make are difficult. Nevertheless, these issues should be squarely on the table and the choices that we make must be clear, transparent and defensible. Of paramount importance is that the public is not mislead into believing that their information is being protected or kept confidential when in fact it is not. Therefore, even to refer to Bill C-54 as the “Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act” should be the subject of debate. Is the Bill truly about information protection or is it actually about permitting access to information?
Bill C-54 presents one approach, an approach that values commerce and access. In CMA’s view the approach is totally inadequate when applied to health information. CMA also believes that the public would also find Bill C-54 inadequate.
CMA presents a different approach, an approach that values privacy and the preservation of the trust and integrity of the patient-physician relationship. CMA believes that its approach would receive broad public support. Moreover, CMA believes that to the extent the CMA Code presents tests rather than conclusions, these tests should be administered in good faith prior to legislative initiatives related to health information or in the case of secondary usage of health information in general.
CMA believes that its approach draws support from the Federal Advisory Council Report, which also recognizes the importance of preserving patient privacy and the confidentiality of the health record in an era of increased use of technology. Implicitly, the Report recognizes that the benefits of such technology cannot be realized if public support, based on assurance of privacy protection, cannot be secured.
CMA urges this committee to implement CMA’s recommendations and in doing so provide the type of protection that health information deserves and that Canadians desire.
VI. Summary of Recommendations
That Bill C-54 be amended to incorporate specific provisions relating to health information and that the provisions of the CMA Code provide the basis of such provisions; and
That the proposed rules for health legislation be subject to the legislative test found in CMA’s Code and formulated in light of this process; and
That there be a clear definition of the information being accorded a right of privacy and that this definition, at least in the case of health information, include identifiable information, delinked information, anonymous information and any composite form produced when information is linked to any information about a person from any other source; and
That, at least in connection with health information, the provisions of the Bill apply equally to the public and the private sectors.
Thank you Madam Chair and Committee members for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am Briane Scharfstein, Associate Secretary General at the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and a family physician by training. I am speaking on behalf of the CMA and our 67,000 physician members across the country.
We commend the Senate for striking this Committee. We are concerned that the aging population has not received sufficient national policy attention. With regard to today's discussion I would note that the CMA has advocated for the elimination of mandatory retirement and we are pleased to see that in general, provincial jurisdictions have eliminated mandatory retirement based on what has become an arbitrary age cutoff. With some obvious exceptions, such as athletics, competence is not related to age per se for most areas of human endeavour. Where human activity may pose risk to the safety of others we believe that the best approach is to develop evidence-based tools and procedures that can be used to assess competence on an ongoing basis.
While physicians play a significant role on a variety of fronts related to aging, I am going to focus my remarks on two specific areas:
* Ensuring the competence of physicians; and
* Fitness to operate motor vehicles and the role of physicians.
Turning first to the competence of the medical workforce, physicians are making diagnoses and performing procedures on a daily basis, both of which may entail a significant amount of risk for our patients. I would add that this is being done in an era where medical knowledge is rapidly increasing.
As a profession that continues to enjoy a high degree of delegated self-regulation, we recognize the importance of ensuring that physicians are and remain competent across the medical career lifecycle. This entails both an individual and collective obligation to:
* engage in lifelong learning;
* recognize and report issues of competence in one's self and one's peers; and
* participate in peer review processes to assure ongoing competence.
First and foremost, physicians have an individual ethical and professional obligation to maintain their competence throughout their career lifecycle. The CMA Code of Ethics calls on physicians to:
* practise the art and science of medicine competently, with integrity and without impairment;
* engage in lifelong learning to maintain and improve professional knowledge skills and attitudes;
* report to the appropriate authority any unprofessional conduct by colleagues; and
* be willing to participate in peer review of other physicians and to undergo review by your peers1
I would stress the importance of peer review in medicine, which is one of the defining characteristics of a self-regulating profession. Simply put, physicians are expected to hold themselves and their colleagues accountable for their behaviour and for the outcomes they achieve on behalf of their patients.2
The individual accountability that physicians have to themselves and to each other is reinforced by a collective accountability for lifelong learning and peer review that is mandated by the national credentialing bodies and by the province/territorial licensing bodies.
With regard to lifelong learning, both national credentialing bodies require evidence of ongoing continuing professional development as a condition of maintaining credentials. The College of Family Physicians of Canada operates a Maintenance of Proficiency program that requires its certificants to earn 250 credits over five years.3 The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada operates a Maintenance of Certification Program that requires its Fellows to achieve 400 credits over a five year period with a minimum 40 in any single year.4
The Canadian Medical Protective Association, the mutual defence organization that provides liability coverage for the vast majority of physicians in Canada also plays a role in identifying high risk areas of medical practice and providing a range of educational materials and programs designed to mitigate such risk.5
Each province and territory has a licensing body - usually known as a College of Physicians and Surgeons that is established to protect the public interest. These colleges operate mandatory peer review programs that ensure that physician's practices are reviewed at regular intervals. These programs typically involve a review of the physician's practice profile based on administrative data, a visit to the physician's office by a medical colleague in a similar type of practice and an audit of a sample of patient charts, followed by a report with recommendations.
In addition, most jurisdictions now have or will soon have in place a program pioneered in Alberta that provides a 360o assessment by administering questionnaires to a sample of a physician's patients, colleagues, and co-worker health professionals. These probe several aspects of competence and reports are provided back to the physician.6
Peer review is even more rigorous in the health care institutions where physicians carry out practices and procedures that involve the greatest potential risk to patients. Physicians are initially required to apply for hospital privileges that are reviewed annually by a credentials committee. These committees have the authority to renew, modify or cancel a physician's privileges. In between annual reviews a physician's day-to-day performance is subject to review by a variety of quality assurance processes and audit/review committees such as morbidity and mortality. Health care institutions in turn are subject to regular scrutiny by the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation which would include the oversight of physician practice among its review parameters.
In summary, the medical profession subscribes to the notion that competence is something that must regularly be reviewed and enhanced across the medical career life cycle, and that such reviews and assessments must be grounded in evidence that is gathered from peers and other validated tools.
Turning to our patients, one area that our members are regularly called on to assess competence is the determination of medical fitness to operate motor vehicles. To assist physicians in carrying out this societal responsibility, the CMA recently released our 7th edition of the Driver's Guide.7 What you will note about this 134 page guide is that the section on aging is only 3 pages long. The focus of the guide is on how substances such as alcohol and medications and a range of disease conditions such as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease may impose risks on fitness to operate a range of motor vehicles including automobiles, off-road vehicles, planes and trains. It provides graduated guidelines that relate to the severity and stage of the condition. As is noted in the section on aging, while the guide acknowledges the greater prevalence of health conditions in older age groups and hence the higher crash rates among the 65 and over age group, it states that the high crash rates in older people cannot be explained by age-related changes alone. In fact, by avoiding unnecessary risk and possessing the most experience, healthy senior drivers are among the safest drivers on the road. Rather, it is the presence and accumulation of health-related impairments that affect driving that is the major cause of crashes for older people. Because older age per se does not lead to higher crash rates, age-based restrictions on driving are not supportable.
Rather than focusing on arbitrary age cutoffs what are required are evidence-based tools such as the Driver's Guide that can be used to detect and assess conditions that may present at any point in the life cycle.
I would like to return to the physician workforce and the practical implications of arbitrary age cutoffs. As you may know Canada is experiencing a growing shortage of physicians - the effects of which are about to be compounded as the first of the baby boomers turn 65 in 2011. Currently we rank 24th out of the 30 OECD countries in terms of physician supply per 1,000 population - our level of 2.2 physicians per 1,000 is one third below the OECD average of 3.0.
As of January 2008, according to the CMA physician Master File there are just over 8,200 licensed physicians in Canada who are aged 65 or older. They represent more than 1 in 10 (13%) of all licensed physicians. Moreover, they are very active; they work on average more than 40 hours per week and in addition more than 40% of them still have on-call responsibilities each month. These doctors make vital contributions to our health care system.
In conclusion, the CMA believes that the public interest is best served by ensuring that all competent physicians, regardless of age, are able to practice medicine. Artificial barriers to practice based on age are simply discriminatory and counter productive in an era of health human resource shortages.
Finally Madam Chair, we hope that the CMA will be invited back to appear before your committee. We have long been concerned with the access of the senior population to health care services and I will leave you with a copy of our policy on principles of medical care of older persons.8 We also hope you will examine the issue of long-term care which has had little if any national policy attention. I will also leave you with a copy of our recent technical background report on pre-funding of long-term care that we tabled at the Federal Minister of Finance's Roundtable in November 2007.9
Thank you again for this opportunity and I would be pleased to answer any questions.
1 Canadian Medical Association. CMA Code of ethics.(Update 2004). http://policybase.cma.ca/PolicyPDF/PD04-06.pdf. Accessed 01/23/08.
2 Canadian Medical Association. Medical professionalism (Update 2005). http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD06-02.pdf. Accessed 01/23/08.
3 College of Family Physicians of Canada. Mainpro(r)Maintenance of Proficiency. http://www.cfpc.ca/English/cfpc/cme/mainpro/maintenance%20of%20proficiency/default.asp?s=1. Accessed 01/23/08.
4 Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Maintenance of Certification Program. http://rcpsc.medical.org/opd/moc-program/index.php. accessed 01/23/08.
5 Canadian Medical Protective Association. Risk management @ a glance. http://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/cmpapd03/pub_index.cfm?FILE=MLRISK_MAIN&LANG=E. Accessed 01/23/08.
6 College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta. Physician Achievement Review Program. http://www.cpsa.ab.ca/collegeprograms/par_program.asp. Accessed 01/23/08.
7Canadian Medical Association. Determining medical fitness to operate motor vehicles. CMA Driver's Guide 7th edition.Ottawa, 2006.
8 Canadian Medical Association. Principles for medical care of older persons. http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/PolicyPDF/PD00-03.pdf. Accessed 01/23/08.
9 Canadian Medical Association. Pre-funding long-term care in Canada: technical backgrounder. Presentation to the Federal Minister of Finance's roundtable, Oshawa, ON, November 23, 2007.
On behalf of the CMA, I thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today and commend the Subcommittee for focusing on the critical issue of child health.
My presentation today will focus on three areas:
1. What the CMA has done and plans to do in the area of children's health;
2. Why the CMA has chosen to focus on the early years as a priority; and
3. What the CMA recommends to the Subcommittee and government for action in the area of children's health.
The CMA's Role & Next Steps
Physicians see the adverse effects of poor child health all too often and we strongly believe that all children should have access to the best possible start in life. That healthy start includes opportunities to grow and develop in a safe and supportive environment with access to health services as needed.
The CMA is proud to have been a partner in the Child Health Initiative (CHI), an alliance between the CMA and the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) and the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) that has pressed for improvements in child health and the development of Child Health Goals.
The CHI held the Child and Youth Health Summit last year where it developed a child health charter based on three principles:
* a safe and secure environment;
* good health and development; and
* a full range of health resources available to all.
The Charter states that all children should have things such as clean water, air and soil; protection from injury and exploitation; and prenatal and maternal care for the best possible health at birth. Further, the charter recognizes the need for proper nutrition for proper growth and long term health; early learning opportunities and high-quality care, at home and in the community; and a basic health care including immunization, drugs, mental and dental health.
Delegates at the Summit also endorsed the Child Health Declaration and the Child and Youth Health Challenge, a call to action to make the charter a reality.
Going forward, the CMA will invest considerable time and effort to develop policy targeting children from birth to five years of age.
To that end the CMA will host the Child Health Expert Consultation and Strategy Session on June 5-6, 2008. The purpose of this consultation is to create a discussion paper to:
* First, identify how CMA can help physicians improve the health of children under five; and second,
* Identify the key determinants of early child health and identify goals and recommend ways to achieve optimal health outcomes for children under five.
This paper will inform a Roundtable Discussion of Child Health Experts in Fall 2008 where we hope to produce a final report on the Key Determinants of Children's Health for the Early Years.
We then hope to be invited to come before this Subcommittee once again to present this report and discuss our conclusions and recommendations.
Why the Early Years
The CMA is focusing on the period from birth to five years old because it is a critical time for children and when the physicians of Canada are perhaps in the best position to make a difference.
Recent human development research suggests that the period from conception to age six has the most important influence of any time in the life cycle on brain development. As well, we are all well aware that Canada could be and should be performing better in comparison to other OECD nations in a number of key areas such as infant mortality, injury and child poverty.
We also know that:
* Early screening for hereditary or congenital disease must take place between the ages of zero and five in order to provide effective intervention; and
* Brain and biological pathways in the prenatal period and in the early years affect physical and mental health in adult life.
Physicians are well positioned to identify and optimize certain conditions for healthy growth and development. Physicians can identify and prescribe effective interventions following many adverse childhood experiences in order to improve health outcomes for children and as they grow into adults.
The CMA believes that there are a number of actions government could be taking today in the area of children's health.
First, Canada should not be at the bottom of the list of developed countries when it comes to spending, as a percentage of GDP, on early childhood programs and development. Investing in early development is essential for an optimal start to life and a physically, mentally and socially healthy childhood.
Second, we need to improve our surveillance capability to better monitor changes in children's health because we can't manage what we can't measure. That is why the CMA recommends the creation of an annual report card on child health in Canada.
Third, nearly one child in six lives in poverty in Canada. This can impact a child's growth and development, his or her physical and mental health and ultimately the ability to succeed as teenagers and adults. Governments can and must do more.
Finally, there are a number of recommendations within the recently released Leitch Report in areas such as injury prevention, environment vulnerabilities, nutrition, aboriginal and mental health. The CMA strongly supports these recommendations and urges this Subcommittee to consider them.
However, if there are two recommendations within the Leitch Report that the CMA believes government could and must act upon immediately, they would be the creation of a National Office of Child Health and a Pan-Canadian Child Health Strategy.
In conclusion, the CMA strongly supports the Subcommittee's work and its focus on child health.
Again, we hope to return to see you again this fall with specific recommendations to address child health determinants, especially those affecting children from birth to age five.
Canada can and should be among the leading nations on earth in terms of children's health status. Our children deserve no less.
The CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education constitute the most effective policy in attempting to reduce the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports a multidimensional approach to the issue.
The CMA therefore recommends the following:
* developing awareness campaigns and education programs, particularly at the high school level where the pattern of alcohol misuse is often established;
* retaining the curative treatment provision found in Section 255(5) of the Criminal Code;
* providing comprehensive treatment suited to the needs of the individual person. Those repeatedly convicted of impaired driving should be considered for mandatory assessment;
* seizing or impounding the driver’s vehicle for the length of the license suspension if an individual is charged with impaired driving while his or her licence is suspended because of a previous impaired driving conviction;
* lowering the legal BAC limit to 50 mg%; and
* creating probationary licence systems for new drivers that would make it an offence to drive a motor vehicle during this probationary period with any measurable alcohol in the body.
The Canadian Medical Association is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Our mission is to provide leadership for physicians and to promote the highest standard of health and health care for Canadians. The CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing the majority of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial divisions and 43 affiliated medical organizations. On behalf of its 45,000 members and the Canadian public, CMA performs a wide variety of functions, including advocating health promotion and disease and accident prevention policies and strategies. It is in this capacity that we present our position on proposed amendments to the Criminal Code sections on impaired driving.
The CMA welcomes this opportunity to comment on the issue of drinking and driving and the safety of our public roadways. The injuries and deaths resulting from impaired driving present a major public health concern. Physicians see the consequences of impaired driving in their practices. In 1996, 3,420 persons were killed in motor vehicle crashes. Alcohol was involved in 39.7% of those fatalitiesi.
In CMA policy documents and publications like the Physicians’ Guide to Driver Examination, the CMA has advocated for measures to reduce injury and death resulting from drinking and driving. The CMA has previously endorsed legislation aimed at reducing the incidence of drinking and driving, including the use of the breathalyser test, more severe penalties for those convicted and the taking of a mandatory blood sample if the individual is unable to provide a breath sampleii. Several of CMA’s provincial and territorial divisions have also issued policy statements on impaired driving (Appendix 1).
II. Multidimensional Approach
From 1987 to 96, there was a general decline in the percentage of fatally injured drivers who had been drinkingiii. In 1996, of tested drivers fatally injured in motor vehicle crashes, 41.6% had been drinking (with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) over 1 mg%>) while 34.9% were legally impaired (BAC >80 mg%)iv. CMA believes that to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries even further, a comprehensive, multidimensional approach encompassing the expertise, resources and experience of health professionals and all levels of government is required. This approach encompasses: (1) public education, (2) medical assessment and treatment interventions and (3) legislation.
1. Public Education
Drinking and driving must be viewed as socially unacceptable behaviour and until this change in attitude occurs, the judicial system cannot be completely effective in controlling the drinking and driving patterns of individuals. Education and information programs which increase society’s awareness of the consequences of using alcohol in combination with driving are integral parts of any attempt to reduce injuries and fatalities.
The CMA supports and recommends the development of awareness campaigns and education programs, particularly at the high school level where the pattern of alcohol misuse is often established.
2. Medical Assessment and Treatment Interventions
CMA shares the belief of specialists in the field of addiction medicine that punishment in the form of incarceration will not solve the problem of impaired drivingv. Rather, in addition to public education campaigns and criminal law sanctions, government must create and fund appropriate assessment and treatment interventions.
Impaired drivers may be occasional users of alcohol. They may also suffer from the disease of Substance Dependence. In the case of alcohol, this disease is commonly known as alcoholism. There are several assessment tools and screening tests to diagnose chronic alcoholismvi.
The term “Hard Core” drinking driver has also been coined to describe impaired drivers who repeatedly drive after drinking, often with a high BAC of 150 mg% or more. They are also resistant to change despite previous actions, treatment or education effortsvii. Although roadside surveys have revealed a general decrease in the overall level of drinking-driving in Canada, drivers with very high levels of BAC (over 150 mg%) seemed immune to this trendviii. “Hard Core” drinking drivers are most likely suffering from substance dependence or alcoholism, a condition requiring significant treatment interventionix.
Physicians, in their educational capacity, can assist in establishing programs in the community aimed at the recognition of the early signs of alcohol abuse or dependency. These programs should recognize the chronic, relapsing nature of alcohol addiction as a disease. There is also good evidence that physician interactions like the Alcohol Risk Assessment and Intervention program developed by the College of Family Physicians of Canada can have a positive impact on the behaviours of moderate drinkersx.
Another tool to aid physicians in the assessment of patients who drive impaired is the CMA publication, The Physicians’ Guide to Driver Examination. The Physicians’ Guide to Driver Examination is a collection of guidelines and expert opinions designed to help physicians assess their patients’ medical fitness to drive. The Physicians’ Guide discusses the impact of a variety of medical conditions on driving, including alcohol use, abuse and dependency. The Physicians’ Guide underlines the fact that alcohol-induced impairment is the single greatest contributor to fatal motor vehicle accidents in Canadaxi. The Physicians Guide to Driver Examination takes a strong stance on the status of drivers with chronic alcohol problems. It recommends that a chronic alcohol abuser should not be allowed to drive any type of motor vehicle until the patient has been assessed and received treatment. The Physicians' Guide to Driver Examination is currently under revision with an anticipated distribution date in the fall of 1999 for the sixth edition.
(a) Discharge for Curative Treatment
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has asked whether it is appropriate under Section 255(5) of the Criminal Code to allow the courts to discharge an impaired driver who is in need of “curative treatment” by placing that person on probation with a condition that he or she attends such treatment.
Section 255(5) of the Criminal Code reads:
Notwithstanding subsection 736(1), a court may, instead of convicting a person of an offence committed under section 253, after hearing medical or other evidence, if it considers that the person is in need of curative treatment in relation to his consumption of alcohol or drugs and that it would not be contrary to the public interest, by order direct that the person be discharged under section 730 on the conditions prescribed in a probation order, including a condition respecting the person’s attendance for curative treatment in relation to his consumption of alcohol or drugs.
The CMA believes that Section 255(5) should remain within the Criminal Code. Section 255(5) is an important recognition within the punitive framework of the Criminal Code of the necessary medical and rehabilitative elements at stake in the issue of impaired driving. CMA believes that there are sufficient safeguards within the wording of Section 255(5) to conclude that it does not invite misuse. There are several hurdles to meet in Section 255(5) before the court may award curative treatment. First, the court hears “medical or other evidence”.
In essence, the granting of the curative treatment order is not merely dependent on the pleas of the impaired driver. Second, the court must be satisfied that the discharge is not contrary to the public interest. In determining what is in the public interest, the courts look to the accused’s motivation and good faith, whether he or she was already subject to a driving prohibition, the risk of recidivism, previous convictions for impaired driving, prior curative discharges and the circumstances of the offence, including consideration of whether the accused was involved in an accident which caused death, bodily harm or significant property damagexii. Finally, it is highly unlikely that the “curative treatment” at issue in Section 255(5) would be involuntary or enforced against the wishes of the accused because his or her motivation or good will in pursuing treatment as an alternative to conviction is a key factor in the court’s decisionxiii.
The CMA recommends retaining the curative treatment provision found in Section 255(5) of the Criminal Code.
(b) Assessment and Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation can occur through education and treatment programs designed for impaired drivers. The CMA believes it is important to provide comprehensive treatment suited to the needs of the individual person. The CMA recognizes that as an exception to the general rule that medical interventions should be voluntary, individuals repeatedly convicted of the offence of impaired driving should be considered for mandatory assessment. This mandatory assessment, followed by medical recommendations for appropriate treatment, would not only benefit those with a chronic alcohol problem but could also help to reduce the incidence of drunk driving incidents attributable to repeat offenders. Physicians have the training, knowledge and expertise to assist in developing alcohol assessment, treatment and rehabilitation programs. Currently, nine jurisdictions have some form of mandatory assessment and rehabilitation programsxiv.
The CMA recommends providing comprehensive treatment suited to the needs of the individual person. Those repeatedly convicted of impaired driving should be considered for mandatory assessment.
On the issue of whether the current penalties provide sufficient deterrence, the CMA is in general agreement with the impoundment measures currently found in eight provincial and territorial jurisdictionsxv. CMA would encourage jurisdictions that do not have these impoundment programs to consider enacting them.
Since 1989, the CMA has recommended that if an individual is charged with impaired driving while his or her licence is suspended because of a previous impaired driving conviction, the suspended driver’s vehicle should be seized or impounded for the length of the license suspension.
(b) Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
In response to the question of whether the legal BAC limit should be lowered from 80 mg%, since 1988 the CMA has supported 50 mg% as the general legal limit. Studies suggest that a BAC limit of 50 mg% could translate into a 6% to 18% reduction in total motor vehicle fatalities or 185 to 555 fewer fatalities per year in Canadaxvi. A lower limit would recognize the significant detrimental effects on driving-related skills that occur below the current legal BACxvii. Finally, the CMA notes that many jurisdictions have 50 mg% as the limit for impairmentxviii.
The CMA recommends lowering the legal BAC limit to 50 mg%.
The CMA has also supported the 1987 recommendation of the former Standing Committee of National Health and Welfare on Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Canada that the provinces establish a probationary or graduated licence system for new drivers that would make it an offence to drive a motor vehicle during this probationary period with any measurable alcohol in the body. Several studies have remarked on the significant reduction in casualty collisions when there is a 0 BAC limit for novice drivers xix. The CMA notes that several provinces have instituted such a graduated licensing systemxx.
The CMA supports probationary licence systems for new drivers that would make it an offence to drive a motor vehicle during this probationary period with any measurable alcohol in the body.
(c) Police Powers
On the issue of police powers to demand breath, blood or saliva samples for alcohol and/or blood testing, the CMA reiterates its earlier support for mandatory blood alcohol testing as outlined in the Criminal Code. At the request of CMA, physicians and other health care workers who take blood samples under this law are specifically protected from criminal and/or civil litigation, but it is not an offense for these health care workers to refuse to take a blood samplexxi.
The CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education campaigns constitute the most effective policy in attempting to reduce the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. It is prefererable to use countermeasures that prevent the occurrence of motor vehicle crashes involving impaired drivers rather than those that deal with the offender after the fact.
The multifaceted nature of the issue of impaired driving requires multidimensional countermeasures as part of a comprehensive policy involving all levels of government, private organizations, communities and individuals. The CMA urges all Canadians to support such efforts to reduce the prevalence of drinking and driving.
IV. Appendix 1
A List of Some Policy Statements and Resolutions on Impaired Driving from CMA Provincial and Territorial Divisions:
* Alberta Medical Association, 1983:
That the AMA recommend to the Government of Alberta that it take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that there are adequate penalties for impaired driving and that such penalties are well enforced.
* New Brunswick Medical Society:
February, 1988.“Statement on Driving Impairment”
October, 1992. “NBMS Position Statement on Alcohol”
* Northwest Territories Medical Association:
Endorsed June, 1998. “Strategy to Reduce Impaired Driving in the Northwest Territories: Interagency Working Group on Impaired Driving. June, 1996.”
* Ontario Medical Association:
November, 1994. “An OMA Position Paper on Drinking and Driving”.
i.Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) (1998).Strategy to Reduce Impaired Driving 2001: STRID 2001 Monitoring Report: Progress in 1996 and 1997. Ottawa: Traffic Injury Research Foundation at 25, 28.
ii.Canadian Medical Association (1989). Substance Abuse and Driving: A CMA Review. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association at 3.
3. Mayhew, D.R., S.W. Brown and H.M. Simpson. (1998) Alcohol Use Among Drivers and Pedestrians Fatally Injured in Motor Vehicle Accidents: Canada, 1996. Ottawa: Traffic Injury Research Foundation at 19.
iv.Ibid at 13-14.
v. Hajela, Raju CD, MD, MPH, CCFP, CASAM, FASAM, President of the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine. Letter to CMA dated January 13, 1999.
vi.American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-IV. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.
vii. Beirness, D.J., H.M. Simpson, and D.R. Mayhew (1998). Programs and policies for reducing alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths and injuries. Contemporary Drug Problems 25/Fall 1998. See also the Century Council (1998) National Hardcore Drunk Driver Project. http://www.dwidata.org.
viii. Beirness, D.J., Mayhew, D.R., Simpson, H.M. and Stewart, D.E. (1995) Roadside surveys in Canada: 1974-1993. In Kloeden, C.N. and McLean, A.J. (eds). Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety-T’95.Adelaide, Australia:NHMRC Road Accident Research Unit, University of Adelaide, pp. 179-184 as cited in Mann, Robert E., Scott Macdonald, Gina Stoduto, Abdul Shaikh and Susan Bondy (1998) Assessing the Potential Impact of Lowering the Blood Alcohol Limit to 50 MG % in Canada. Ottawa: Transport Canada, TP 13321 E at 14-15.
ix. Hajela, note 5 at 2.
x. Brison, Robert J., MD (1997). The Accidental Patient. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 157 (12) 1661-1662.
xi. Canadian Medical Association (1991).Physicians' Guide to Driver Examination. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association at 51.
xii. R v. Storr (1995), 14 M.V.R. (3d) 34 (Alta. C.A.).
xiv.Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), note 1 at 12.
xvi. Mann et al., note 8 at 54.
xvii. Moskowitz, H. and Robinson, C.D. (1988). Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving Skills: A Review of the Evidence. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT-HS-800-599 as cited in Mann, et al., note 8 at page 12-13.
xviii.Mann et al., note 8 at 24.
xix.Hingson, R., Heeren, T. and Winter, M. (1994) Lower legal blood alcohol limits for young drivers. Public Health Reports, 109, 738-744 as cited in Mann et al., note 8 at 36.
xx.Mann et al., note 8 at 29.
xxi.Canadian Medical Association, note 2 at 3.