The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) brief submitted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health makes 12 practical recommendations within the jurisdiction of the federal government for investing in the capacity needed to expand and retain our practising physician population. These recommendations are a clarion call for pan-Canadian planning and innovative thinking to meet an ever-increasing demand for physician services from the Canadian public. CMA's research on Health Care Transformation has shown that a commitment to ensuring an adequate supply of health human resources (HHR) is a common trait shared by high-performing European health systems. The last federal election campaign saw most political parties pledge to urgently address HHR shortages. Now is the time to keep those election commitments.
Cuts to medical school enrolment in the 1990s contributed to Canada's significant shortage of physicians. Growing demand for physician services, the aging of the physician population and changing practice styles among younger physicians are further compounding the problem. Seriously addressing HHR shortages is crucial to transforming Canada's health care system into one that is truly patient focused.
Canada should strive for self-sufficiency in physician supply and do more to repatriate Canadians studying and practising medicine abroad. The CMA supports bringing into practice qualified international medical graduates (IMGs) already in Canada. IMGs should be assessed according to the same evaluation standards as Canadian graduates and more should be done to reduce the backlog in assessing IMGs. With recent increases to medical school enrolment, more support must also be given for the capital infrastructure and faculty required to ensure the highest standard of medical education.
Competition for physicians is an issue with both international and inter-provincial/territorial facets. The revised Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) and bilateral agreements will ease the movement of health professionals across jurisdictions, but may exacerbate retention difficulties in underserviced areas. Canada should be active in retaining and repatriating our health care professionals, particularly since the predicted physician shortage in the United States may result in a return to the physician out-migration seen in the 1990s.
Canada must do more to encourage innovation within our health care system. Collaborative care - including care delivered with the assistance of Physician Assistants (PAs) - and advances in information technology hold the promise of helping create a more efficient health care system that provides higher quality care.
Canada has suffered from a significant physician shortage since the mid-1990s. Nationally, we rank 26th of 30 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries in physician-to-population ratio. We would need 20,000 new physicians just to meet the OECD average.
Figure 1: Physicians per 1000 population (including residents)
Source: OECD 2008 Health Data; CMA Physician Resources Evaluation Template
During the 2008 federal election campaign, four of the five parties represented in the House of Commons recognized the urgency of this situation and promised measures that would address HHR shortages. Following through on these promises is critical if we are to transform Canada's health care system into one that truly puts the needs of patients first. Research conducted for CMA's Health Care Transformation initiative demonstrates that European countries whose health care systems outperform our own all share a strong commitment to HHR, as demonstrated by their higher physician-to-population rankings.
First-year medical school enrolment was already in decline when health ministers imposed a further 10% cut resulting in a low of 1,577 places in 1997. While there have been substantial increases since then, it took a decade to rebound. In 2007, first-year enrolment stood at 2,569 - 63% higher than a decade earlier. If we had left our domestic production unchanged, we would have almost 1,300 more physicians than we have today.
Canada remains well behind other industrialized countries in the education and training of physicians. In 2005, Canada graduated 5.8 physicians per 100,000 population, 40% below the 9.6 average for the OECD.
Currently, between 4 and 5 million Canadians do not have a family physician. Over one-third of all Canadian physicians are over the age of 55. Many will either retire soon or reduce their practice workload. Most are not accepting new patients.
Ironically, advances in medicine and lifestyle that are helping Canadians live better and longer also mean increased demand for health care professionals. An aging population with high expectations of the health care system is increasing pressure on health care providers to ensure they maintain a high quality of life through their elder years. A growing culture of 'health consumerism,' facilitated by the Internet has resulted in a very knowledgeable patient population that expects top quality care delivered in a timely manner by the appropriate health professional.
Advances in medical diagnostics and technology, new and evolving diseases and increasingly complex protocols and guidelines for medical care all increase the demand for physician services. Declining mortality rates for patients with diseases such as cancer have increased treatment of what have become 'chronic' diseases. In a collaborative care setting, physicians often take responsibility for the most complex patients.
There is evidence of a cultural change among physicians to place greater importance on their home life by working less. This trend may have a positive effect on the health of the profession but it means Canada will need more physicians to provide the same volume of services.
Greater coordination among jurisdictions is needed to facilitate HHR planning on a national scale. Canada's doctors and other health professions are ready to assist policy-makers in their planning and coordination to better meet the health care needs of Canadians.
During the 2008 federal election campaign, most political parties recognized the urgency of addressing HHR shortages. The Conservative Party, specifically, promised to fund 50 new residency positions to increase supply of physicians in areas of priority need.
Recommendation 1: The federal government should fulfill its promise to fund 50 new residency positions at a cost of $10 million per year for four years.
Support for IMGs
The CMA fully supports bringing into practice qualified IMGs already in Canada. Canada has historically benefited from a steady flow of IMGs to our country. In fact, close to one quarter of all physicians in Canada and over 50% of doctors in Saskatchewan are IMGs. Many areas in Canada would have no physicians if not for the contribution of these practitioners.
While IMGs are a boon to Canada, actively recruiting from developing countries is not an acceptable solution to our physician shortage. Canada must strive for greater self-sufficiency in the education and training of physicians. In fact, self-sufficiency is a key principle of the government's Advisory Committee on Health Delivery and Human Resources' Framework for Collaborative Pan-Canadian Health Human Resources Planning.
CMA supports online assessment tools and websites that provide information to foreign-trained physicians so they know what standards they must meet once they arrive in Canada. In 2006, over 1700 people used the online assessment tool established by the Medical Council of Canada (MCC). CMA also supports applying the same evaluation standards to international graduates as it does to graduates of Canadian medical schools.
Despite a four-fold increase in the number of IMGs in ministry-funded postgraduate training programs over the last decade, there is still a backlog of IMGs awaiting entry into these programs. About 1300 IMGs applied for a postgraduate training position last year but only 350 (27%) were successful. CMA recommends that funding be made available to provinces for use in mentoring IMGs towards licensure. This could lower costs for the IMGs, pay the community preceptors, cover operational costs and defray other expenses.
It is estimated that up to 1500 Canadians are studying medicine abroad. Two-thirds of these IMGs want to come home to complete their postgraduate training. Canada turns away four good applicants for every student accepted into medical school. Increased training opportunities for all groups of IMGs will ensure that Canada fully utilizes the skills and knowledge of its citizens who have studied medicine.
Recommendation 2: The federal government should make $5 million (over five years), available to provinces/territories to address the backlog of IMGs through community preceptorship programs that mentor and assess IMGs for integration into the physician community.
Recommendation 3: The federal government should take concrete steps to ensure Canada becomes self-sufficient when it comes to the supply of health care professionals.
Recommendation 4: The federal government should continue to fund information tools such as the IMG-Canada website to better inform offshore physicians.
Infrastructure and faculty
Canada's teaching centres have had to absorb increases in operational and infrastructure costs to accommodate increased enrolment. This includes instructors, space, overhead and supplies. While it appears that the number of faculty members has kept pace with the increased number of medical students, part-time faculty now make up a much larger proportion of the total than 10 years ago. i
In addition to the traditional academic centres, much of the training of doctors now occurs in a community environment. Mentoring is provided by physicians who may have less experience or resources than do those in the larger centres. Those who teach often experience lost productivity in their practice and receive little or no remuneration. This deficiency must be addressed to achieve a sustainable educational workforce.
Recommendation 5: The federal government should implement a Health Human Resources Infrastructure 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; and
* Resources that improve Canada's data collection and management capacity in the area of health human resources.
B. Retention of Canadian Physicians
Competition for physicians is both an international and an inter-jurisdictional challenge. The new Agreement on Internal Trade within Canada and numerous bilateral agreements will no doubt ease the movement of health professionals. This may exacerbate the already difficult task of retaining physicians in underserviced areas. On the positive side, it is hoped this will facilitate the movement of physicians who provide short-term relief for physicians needing time off for continued professional development and vacation (i.e., locum tenens).
As the political situation and health care plans evolve south of our border, Canada should remain active in the quest to retain the health professionals we have educated and trained and make it easier for those who have emigrated to return to practice in Canada. The Conservative Party committed in the 2008 election campaign to create a repatriation fund for Canadian physicians practising abroad. The federal government should keep this important commitment.
Migration to the United States peaked in the late 1990s when Canada lost between 600 and 700 physicians per year. While some physicians returned to Canada each year, our net losses for this period were over 400 per year. Today we are enjoying small net gains each year but this may not last given the predicted shortages in the U.S. of between 80,000 and 100,000 physicians in the years ahead. We can expect U.S. recruiters to ramp up activities in Canada in the near future.
Recommendation 6: The federal government should fulfill its election promise to establish a fund of $5 million per year over four years to help Canadian physicians living abroad who wish to relocate to Canada. It is thought this initiative could bring back as many as 300 Canadian physicians over four years.
Recommendation 7: The federal government should establish a Health Professional Repatriation Program in the amount of $30 million over 3 years that would include the following:
* A secretariat within Health Canada that would include a clearinghouse function on issues associated with health care workers returning to practise in Canada.
* An ad campaign in the United States.
* A program of one-time relocation grants for returning health professionals.
Physician Health and Well Being
Ultimately, we hope that healthier physicians will create a more vibrant profession. Hopefully these healthier physicians will in turn create a more healthful professional environment that will support their ability to provide patient care of the highest quality.
Through programs and conferences, the CMA has contributed to growing efforts to reduce the stigma surrounding physician ill-health and to support a new, healthier culture for the profession. Given the myriad other issues that contribute to our doctor shortage, it is clear that Canada cannot afford to lose a single physician to ill health.
Our research shows that the most stressful aspect of the medical profession is being on call after hours. Physicians average 50 hours a week in the usual settings of office, hospital or clinic but then 70% are on call for another 30 hours per week. In small communities, physicians are often on call all the time. A quarter of all physicians face some form of mental health challenge that makes their work difficult. This is higher than the 1 in 5 Canadians that will face a mental illness over their lifetime.ii
The ongoing pressures experienced by overworked physicians can result in stress related disorders and burn-out and are frequently a precursor to more significant physical and mental health problems. If not addressed early, these conditions can lead to physicians taking prolonged periods of time off work, changing their practice patterns or leaving the practice of medicine altogether.
Prevention programs are the key to assisting physicians before they are at significant risk. The CMA visited such a program in Norway which has been shown to significantly reduce burn-out and reduce the subsequent time-off work related to stressiii. A program to enhance physician resiliency and prevent stress related disorders, based on the Norway model, could be expanded to include services for all health professionals. The potential impact would be improved provider health and morale, reduced sick days and fewer long-term leaves.
Recommendation 8: The federal government should invest in research directed at assessing the quality of work life among health workers through an interprofessional survey at a cost of $1.5 million.
Recommendation 9: The federal government should explore the feasibility of developing a 'made in Canada' Resiliency Program for Health Professionals that would include the development of a feasibility study, including a business case, and a pilot curriculum, at a cost of $500,000.
While Canada must do more to increase both our supply and retention of HHR, we must also encourage innovation within our health care system to make better use of our existing health resources. Collaborative models of interprofessional care and advances in information technology hold the promise of helping create a more efficient health care system that provides higher quality care.
Increasingly physicians are working in interprofessional teams that may include professions that are relatively new to Canada's health workforce such as physician assistants (PAs). The CMA accredits PA curricula and has held two conferences to promote the use of PAs in all levels of care.
Recommendation 10: The federal government should fund a study to evaluate the impact of physician assistants on access to health care and to determine their cost effectiveness relative to other providers at cost of $150,000.
Technology to Support Health Care Delivery
Information technology will continue to create a more efficient and effective health care system. It will lead to more patient safety, more Canadians finding a physician, better care, cost avoidance such as eliminating duplicate tests and the establishment of collaborative interprofessional health care teams.
Canada's adoption of electronic medical records lags behind other OECD countries. We only spend a third of the OECD average on information technology in our hospitals. The adoption of EMRs in community settings (primary care, home care and long-term care facilities) also trails most other countries (Figure 2iv). This is not due to any general resistance by providers, but rather a combination of: a lack of evidence on how best to use electronic records to improve care delivery; a need to improve the return on investment for physicians by providing value-added solutions such as greater connectivity to lab results, drug data and colleagues; the time it takes to implement a new electronic record capability and a lack of funds to acquire new technology.
Recent investments in Canada Health Infoway (CHI) will help address some of these issues but it is estimated that for Canada to have a fully automated health care delivery system we need to invest $ 10 to $12 billionv. An overall investment of $2 billion is required to fully IT enable the community-based health care delivery sector. While Budget 2009 provided $500 million to CHI for EMRs, more is still required.
Recommendation 11: The federal government should provide a further investment of $500 million for new technology to fully enable all points of care in the community settings and an enhanced change management program to speed up EMR adoption.
Recommendation 12: The federal government should create a $10-million fund to establish an applied research program for the next five years that will provide evidence on how best to integrate information technology into the health care delivery system.
Canada's doctors believe that we can build a health care system where all Canadians can get timely access to quality health care services regardless of their ability to pay. Developing a comprehensive HHR strategy that assures an adequate supply of all health care providers, including physicians, is a pillar of achieving timely access to high quality care. Building such a system requires that we shift our attitude and move to implement new strategies, new ideas and new thinking. That new thinking must begin with a commitment to act now to address Canada's physician shortage. A promise made must be a promise fulfilled.
i Canada's Health Care Providers 2007, Ottawa: CIHI, 2007
ii Frank E. Canadian physicians healthy - national survey finds. A report from the 2008 International Conference on Physician Health. London, UK Nov 2008.
iii Isaksson Ro, K et al. Counselling for burnout in Norwegian doctors : One year cohort study. BMJ. November 2008. Vol 337, 1146-9.
iv * Count of 14: EMR, EMR access other doctors, outside office, patient; routine use electronic ordering tests, prescriptions, access test results, access hospital records; computer for reminders, Rx alerts, prompt test results; easy to list diagnosis; medications, patients due for care.
v Vision 2015 - Advancing Canada's Next Generation of Healthcare, Canada Health Infoway, 2008
Re: Standing Committee on Health’s study on violence faced by healthcare workers
Dear Mr. Casey:
I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) to submit recommendations for
consideration by the Standing Committee on Health (the Committee) as part of the study on violence
faced by healthcare workers.
The CMA is deeply concerned with the state of workplace safety in all health care settings, including
hospitals, long-term care, and home care settings. As in all experiences of violence, it is
unacceptable for healthcare workers to be victims of violence in the provision of care to patients.
While there is limited data nationally to understand the incidence of violence against healthcare
workers, anecdotal evidence suggests that these experiences are increasing in frequency and severity.
A 2010 survey of members of the College of Family Physicians of Canada shockingly found that, in
the previous month, nearly one-third of respondents had been exposed to some form of aggressive
behaviour from a patient (90%) or patient’s family (70%). The study concluded that “Canadian family
physicians in active practice are subjected to regular abuse from their patients or family members of
These concerns were brought to the CMA’s General Council in 2015, where our members passed a
resolution calling for:
“the federal government to amend the Criminal Code by making it a specific criminal offence to
assault health care providers performing their duties.”
The CMA is prioritizing initiatives that support physician health and wellness. Increasingly, there is a
recognition of the role of the workplace, primarily health care settings, and safe working conditions as
having an important influence of physician health and wellness.
1 Miedema BB, Hamilton R, Tatemichi S et al. Monthly incidence rates of abusive encounters for Canadian family physicians by patients and their families. Int J Family
Med. 2010; 2010: 387202. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3275928/pdf/IJFM2010-387202.pdf (accessed 2019 May 9).
Mr. Bill Casey
Addressing violence against providers in healthcare settings will require action from both federal and
provincial/territorial governments. In light of the above, the CMA respectfully submits the following
recommendations for consideration by the Committee in its study on violence against healthcare
1) The CMA recommends that the Committee on Health support the call to amend the Criminal
Code of Canada to introduce a new criminal offence for assault against a healthcare
provider performing their duty.
2) The CMA recommends that the Committee on Health support establishing monitoring of
violence against healthcare workers, that is consistent across jurisdictions, and have an active
role in responding appropriately to trends.
3) The CMA recommends that the Committee on Health support federal leadership in a pan-
Canadian approach to support workplace safety in healthcare settings, including
collaborating with the provinces and territories to improve violence prevention.
Finally, the CMA welcomes and supports the petition recently tabled in the House of Commons by
Dr. Doug Eyolfson, calling for the Minister of Health “to develop a pan-Canadian prevention strategy
to address growing incidents of violence against health care workers.”
In closing, the CMA is encouraged that the Committee is undertaking this study. I look forward to the
Committee’s report on this topic and the opportunity to collaborate on federal and
provincial/territorial action in this matter.
F. Gigi Osler, BScMed, MD, FRCSC
c.c.: Marilyn Gladu, M.P., Vice Chair, Standing Committee on Health
Don Davies, M.P., Vice Chair Standing Committee on Health
As signs of economic recovery begin to emerge, both in Canada and globally, the Canadian Medical Association is pleased to put forward three recommendations that will initiate a needed transformation of our health care system so that it is truly patient focused and sustainable. Additionally, these measures will create 17,000 jobs and solidify Canada's health care competitive advantage. Although related to the health care sector, these recommendations are within the context of ensuring a prosperous, and sustainable economic, social and environmental future for Canada in the short, medium and long-term. Each of these three recommendations also takes into account the finance committee's questions:
1. What federal tax and program spending measures are needed to ensure prosperity and a sustainable future for Canadians from an economic, social and/or environmental perspective?
2. What federal stimulus measures have been effective and how might relatively ineffective measures be changed to ensure that they have the intended effects?
CMA research demonstrates that it is possible to maintain a universally accessible health care system without long waits for care. In 2007 alone, waiting for care in just four clinical areas cost the Canadian economy $14.8 billion. In particular, two areas require federal attention:
1. ENHANCING PATIENT ACCESS ACROSS THE CONTINUUM OF CARE
Continuing care (ie. long-term care and home care) and prescription drug coverage need urgent attention. Many Canadians do not have access to as wide a range of insured care as citizens in other highly industrialized countries.
Recommendation 1: The federal government should expand the Building Canada Plan to include 'shovel-ready' health facility construction projects including ambulatory, acute and continuing care facilities. Cost: $1.5 billion over 2 years
2. HELPING PROVIDERS HELP PATIENTS
a. Accelerating physician EMR adoption: Both national and international studies confirm that
Canada lags behind nearly every major industrialized country when it comes to health information technology. Accelerating physician EMR adoption will reduce wait times, improve quality, and improve financial accountability especially of federal dollars. Budget 2009 proposed $500 million in additional funding to Canada Health Infoway and a temporary, accelerated capital cost allowance for computer hardware. Transfer of these funds to Infoway is imperative. Together, transferring the funding to Infoway and further improving of the capital cost allowance will ensure these initiatives have the intended effects of improving EMR adoption and stimulating the economy.
b. Boosting Health Human Resources: Canada does not have enough physicians, nurses, technicians or other health care professionals to provide the care patients need. Addressing HHR shortages is critical to ensuring sustainable, accessible, responsive and high-quality health care.
Recommendation 2: The federal government should expand the 2-year time-limited accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for hardware costs related to health information technologies by extending it to five years; removing the 50% half-year rule on related software; and including electronic tools involved in connecting patient records from physician offices to laboratories and hospitals. Cost: $50 million over four years.
Recommendation 3: The federal government should fulfill its 2008 election promise, beginning in 2010, of investing $65 million in health human resources over four years to fund 50 new residencies per year; repatriate Canadian physicians living abroad; and launch pilot projects with nursing organizations to promote recruitment and retention.
1. INTRODUCTION - HEALTHY ECONOMICS: THE FOUNDATION OF FUTURE PROSPERITY
The CMA believes that by being innovative in its actions Canada can sustain a publicly funded, universal health care system. In fact, doing so provides Canadian industry with a significant competitive advantage in the global marketplace. Despite having one of the richest health care programs in the industrialized world (eighth among 28 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] countries), international benchmarking studies consistently report that the Canadian program is not performing as well as it should. The Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index ranked Canada 30th out of 30 countries in terms of value for money spent on health care in both 2008 and 2009.The CMA's recent review of several European health systems illustrates that a sustainable, patient-centred approach to health care is possible on a system-wide level without compromising founding principles such as universality, and without causing financial difficulty for the country or its citizens. However, getting there will require transformational change to refocus our system.
The Canadian Medical Association's 2010 pre-budget submission puts forward three recommendations in the areas of health care infrastructure, health human resources (HHR) and electronic medical records (EMRs).1 These three affordable, strategic initiatives fall within the jurisdiction of the federal government and recognize both the ongoing and promising economic recovery and the current fiscal capacity of the federal government. CMA's recommendations help to chart a course toward a prosperous, and sustainable economic, social and environmental future for Canada in the short, medium and long terms. These proposals will kickstart a transformation of the health care system and create over 17,000 jobs that will ensure a competitive economic foundation for the future.
Based on CMA's research, transforming Canada's health care system to better meet the needs of Canadians hinges on five directions for a reorientation of the system:
1. Building a culture of patient-centred care;
2. Incentives for enhancing access and improving quality of care;
3. Enhancing patient access across the continuum of care;
4. Helping providers help patients;
5. Building accountability/responsibility at all levels.
While each of the five directions is important to reorienting the system, points 3 and 4 are directly relevant to the Finance Committee's deliberations.
2. ENHANCING PATIENT ACCESS ACROSS THE CONTINUUM OF CARE
While all elements of the continuum of care are important, the CMA believes that continuing care (long-term care and home care) and prescription drug coverage need urgent attention. Many Canadians do not have access to as wide a range of insured care as citizens in other highly industrialized countries. In fact, many of these other industrialized countries count access to prescription drugs and home care/long-term care among their basic insured services.
a. Continuing care: Augmenting the Building Canada Plan to include health care infrastructure
Recommendation 1: The federal government should expand the Building Canadai Plan to include 'shovel-ready' health facility construction projects including ambulatory, acute and continuing care facilities. Cost: $1.5 billion over two years
Continuing care in Canada faces three key challenges: capacity and access; informal caregiver support and long-term care funding. At 91%, Canada has the highest hospital occupancy rate in the OECD.ii Roughly 25-30% of hospital acute care beds are occupied by patients who do not require hospital or medical care but rather need 24-hour supervised care. Scarce long-term care facilities and home-care services dictate that patients remain in hospital, delaying hospitals from performing elective surgeries and restricting the movement of other patients from the emergency room to acute care wards. Much of the burden of continuing care falls on informal (unpaid) caregivers who need to be better supported. Statistics Canada reported that in 2007 about 2.7 million Canadians aged 45 and over, or approximately one-fifth of the total in this age group, provided some form of unpaid care to seniors (people 65 years of age or older) who had long-term health problems iiiIt seems unlikely that future requirements for long-term care can be funded on the same "pay-as-you-go" basis as other health expenditures.
The seven-year, $33-billion Building Canada Plan announced in Budget 2007 and augmented in Budget 2009, could better support a smart economic recovery and the health needs of Canadians if it were to be expanded to include health facility construction.iv Federal investment in hospital and health facility construction will create 16,500 jobs over a two-year period and 11,000 jobs in 2010 alone. (Appendix: Table 1).
Although CMA's $1.5 billion recommendation does not eliminate the entire health-facility infrastructure gap in Canada, estimated at over $20 billionv, it does provide additional stimulus aimed at shovel-ready projects. It also better prepares our health system to deal with the needs of an aging population. Federal government investment in health infrastructure has two important precedents - the first in 1948 (Hospital Construction Grants Program) and the second in 1966 (Health Resources Fund Act). Infrastructure funding should be directed toward projects that deliver long-term value and enhance Canadians' lives.
b. Prescription drugs: 3.5 million Canadians underinsured
Prescription drugs represent the fastest growing item in the health budget, and the second largest category of health expenditure. More than 3.5 million Canadians have no prescription drug coverage or are underinsured against high prescription drug costs. In 2006 almost one in 10 (8%) of Canadian households spent more than 3% of their after-tax income on prescription drugs; and almost one in 25 (3.8%) spent more than 5%. It is estimated that less than one-half of prescription drug costs were publicly paid for in 2008. Canada must strive for a program of comprehensive pharmaceutical coverage that is universal and effectively pools risks across individuals and public and private plans throughout Canada.
3. HELPING PROVIDERS HELP PATIENTS
Canada's health care workforce needs more people and more tools to care for Canadians.
a. Accelerating physician EMR adoption
Recommendation 2: The federal government should expand the 2-year, time-limited accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for hardware costs related to health information technologies by extending it to 5-years; removing the 50% half-year rule on related software; and including electronic tools involved in connecting patient records from physician offices to laboratories and hospitals. Cost: $50 million over four years.
Both national and international studies confirm that Canada lags behind nearly every major industrialized country when it comes to health information technology (see Figure 1 and Figure 22). The impact of this underinvestment is longer wait times, reduced quality, and a severe lack of financial accountability, especially of federal dollars.
The Conference Board of Canadavi, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) vii, the World Health Organizationviii, the Commonwealth Fundix, and the Frontier Centre for Public Policyx all rate Canada's health care system poorly in terms of "value for money" as well as efficiency.
The CMA applauds the temporary 100% Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) rate for computer hardware and systems software acquired after January 27, 2009 and before February 1, 2011 that was proposed in Budget 2009. The measure will provide stimulus by helping businesses to increase or accelerate investment in computers. It will also help boost Canada's productivity through the faster adoption of newer technology. However, for this initiative to provide the greatest benefit, the 100% CCA rate should be extended to five years and expanded to include related EMR software. The benefits of EMR investments are clear. International strategy and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton found the benefits of an interconnected Electronic Health Record (EHR) in Canada could save the health system $6.1 billionxi a year.
The CMA's recommendation of delivering incentives through the tax system to adopt EMRs is a bottom-up approach that has gained widespread support. John Halamka, the chief information officer at Harvard Medical School, thinks that reformers need to take a bottom-up approach and listen to both doctors and patients. Studies showxiithat most of the benefits of EMRs flow to the payer. Incentives for hardware, software and as importantly the time that it takes to implement these e-systems must be taken into account and incented. The urgency for e-health is being recognized in the United States and needs to be in Canada.
Beyond tax incentives, Budget 2009 also provided Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) with $500 million to support the goal of having 50 % of Canadians with an electronic health record by 2010. As of March 31, 2009, Infoway and its partners had put in place an electronic health record for 17% of the population. Budget 2009 funding will allow Infoway to extend EHRs to 38% of the population by March 31, 2010. xiii This investment will not only enhance the safety, quality and efficiency of the health care system, but will also result in a significant positive contribution to Canada's economy, including the creation of thousands of sustainable, knowledge-based jobs throughout Canadaxiv. Infoway has not yet received this funding and the CMA strongly encourages the federal government to transfer the funds promised in Budget 2009 as soon as possible.
b. Boosting Health Human Resources
Recommendation 3: The federal government should fulfill its 2008 election promisexv, beginning in 2010, of investing $65 million in health human resources over four years to fund 50 new residencies per year; repatriate Canadian physicians living abroad; and launch pilot projects with nursing organizations to promote recruitment and retention.
Canada does not have enough physicians, nurses, technicians or other health care professionals to provide the care patients need. Addressing health workforce shortages is critical to ensuring sustainable, accessible, responsive and high-quality health care across the nation. Canada has suffered from a significant physician shortage since the mid-1990s. Nationally, we rank 26th of 30 OECD member countries in physician-to-population ratio (see Figure 3). The lack of physicians in Canada puts the system under pressure and the impact of this is being felt by patients across the country. Currently, approximately five million Canadians do not have a family physician. In 2008, a study commissioned by the CMA found that the Canadian economy lost $14.8 billion as a result of excessive wait times for just four procedures: joint replacements, MRIs, coronary artery bypass surgery and cataract surgery.
As health care reform plans evolve south of our border, Canada should be proactive in order to retain the health professionals we have educated and trained and make it easier for those who have emigrated to return to practice in Canada. In the 2008 federal election, most parties recognized the urgency of HHR shortages and committed to address the situation. The Conservative Party committed to fund additional medical residency positions, create a repatriation fund for Canadian physicians practising abroad and fund nursing recruitment and retention pilot projects. It is thought this repatriation program could bring back as many as 300 Canadian physicians over four years. The federal government should keep this important commitment. Migration to the United States peaked in the late 1990s when Canada lost between 600 and 700 physicians per year. While some physicians returned to Canada each year, our net losses for this period were over 400 per year. Today we are enjoying small net annual gains but this may not last. With predicted shortages in the U.S. of between 80,000 and 100,000 physicians in the years ahead, we can expect U.S. recruiters to ramp up activities in Canada soon.
The emerging economic recovery offers an excellent opportunity for the federal government to create a more patient-focused and sustainable health care system. Enhancing patient access across the continuum of care by bolstering the Building Canada infrastructure plan and helping providers help patients by enhancing EMR tax incentives and addressing health workforce shortages are important first steps in transforming our health care system. Looking ahead, it will be important to continue to honour the financial transfers of the 2004 Health Care Accord, including the annual 6% escalator, through to 2014. Past cuts to health care funding at all levels have had significant negative effects that continue to be felt to this day. Now is the time to begin thinking ahead to the fiscal needs of the health care system in the post-2014 era.
Appendix Table 1
[For correct dispaly of table information, see PDF]
1 A full schedule of the recommended federal investments as well as their job creation potential is included at the end of the document in the Appendix, Table 1.
2 14 functions are: EMR, EMR access, access other doctors, outside office, patient: routine use, electronic ordering tests, prescriptions, access test results, access hospital records, computer for reminders, Rx alerts, prompt test results; easy to list diagnosis, medications, patients due for care.
i Building Canada Plan., Announced in Budget 2007, the seven-year, $33-billion Building Canada plan consists of a suite of programs to meet the varying needs of infrastructure projects across Canada.
See page 142 of the 2009 Federal Budget. www.budget.gc.ca/2009/pdf/budget-planbugetaire-eng.pdf
ii Hospital Occupancy Rates. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] (2008). OECD Health.
Data 2007. Version 07/18/2007. CD-ROM. Paris: OECD.
iii.Cranswick, Kelly, Donna Dosman. "Eldercare: What we Know Today" Canadian Social Trends.No. 86. Statistics Canada
iv Building Canada Plan, Federal Budget 2009 page 142. .
v This estimate is based on survey work in a forthcoming publication commissioned by the Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations.
vi How Canada Performs 2008: A Report Card on Canada, The Conference Board of Canada
vii Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] (2007). OECD Health
Data 2007. Version 07/18/2007. CD-ROM. Paris: OECD.
viii World Health Organization [WHO] (2007). World Health Statistics 2007. see: http://www.who.
ix 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
x Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index 2008, Health Consumer Powerhouse, Frontier Centre for Public Policy, FC Policy Series No. 38 see:www.fcpp.org/pdf/ECHCI2008finalJanuary202008.pdf
xi Booz, Allan, Hamilton Study, Pan-Canadian Electronic Health Record, Canada's Health Infoway's 10-Year Investment Strategy, March 2005-09-06.
xii Although the savings would accrue to different stakeholders, in the long run they should accrue to payers. If we allocate the savings using the current level of spending from the National Health Accounts (kept by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), Medicare would receive about $23 billion of the potential savings per year, and private payers would receive $31 billion per year. Thus, both have a strong incentive to encourage the adoption of EMR systems. Providers face limited incentives to purchase EMRs because their investment typically translates into revenue losses for them and health care spending savings for payers. From: Can Electronic Medical Record Systems Transform Health Care? Potential Health Benefits, Savings, And Costs, by Richard Hillestad, James Bigelow, Anthony Bower, Federico Girosi, Robin Meili, Richard Scoville and Roger Taylor, Health Affairs, 24, no. 5 (2005): 1103-1117
xiii Corporate Business Plan 2009/2010, Canada Health Infoway, "Anticipated Progress to March 31, 2010" page 7 see:www2.infoway-inforoute.ca/Documents/bp/Business_Plan_2009-2010_en.pdf
xiv Federal Budget 2009 page 152. see: www.budget.gc.ca/2009/pdf/budget-planbugetaire-eng.pdf
xv Health Care Certainty for Canadian Families, the Conservative Party of Canada, backgrounder 10/08/08.