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