Helping physicians care for patients
Aider les médecins à prendre soin des patients
Canada is a nation on the precipice of great change. This change will be driven primarily by the economic and social implications of the major demographic shift already underway. The added uncertainties of the global economy only emphasize the imperative for federal action and leadership.
In this brief, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to present four recommendations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance for meaningful federal action in support of a national seniors strategy; these are essential measures to prepare for an aging population.
Canada's demographic and economic imperative
In 2011 the first of wave of the baby boomer generation turned 65 and Canada's seniors population stood at 5 million.1 By 2036, seniors will represent up to 25% of the population.2 The impacts of Canada's aging population on economic productivity are multi-faceted.
An obvious impact will be fewer workers and a smaller tax base. Finance Canada projects that the number of working-age Canadians for every senior will fall from about 5 today to 2.7 by 2030.3
The projected surge in demand for services for seniors that will coincide with slower economic growth and lower government revenue will add pressure to the budgets of provincial and territorial governments. Consider that while seniors account for about one-sixth of the population, they consume approximately half of public health spending.4 Based on current trends and approaches, seniors' care is forecast to consume almost 62% of provincial/territorial health budgets by 2036.5
The latest fiscal sustainability report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer explains that the demands of Canada's aging population will result in "steadily deteriorating finances" for the provinces and territories and they "cannot meet the challenges of population ageing under current policy."6
Theme 1: Productivity
A) New federal funding to provincial/territorial governments
Canada's provincial and territorial leaders are aware of the challenges ahead. This July, the premiers issued a statement calling for the federal government to increase the Canada Health Transfer to 25% of provincial and territorial health care costs to address the needs of an aging population.
To support the innovation and transformation needed to address these needs, the CMA recommends that the federal government deliver additional funding on an annual basis beginning in 2016-17 to the provinces and territories by means of a demographic-based top-up to the Canada Health Transfer (Table 1). For the fiscal year 2016-17, this top-up would require $1.6 billion in federal investment.
Table 1: Allocation of the federal demographic-based top-up, 2016-20 ($million)7
All of Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
B) Federal support for catastrophic drug coverage
A major gap in Canada's universal health care system is the lack of universal access to prescription medications, long recognized as the unfinished business of medicare. Canada stands out as the only country with universal health care without universal pharmaceutical coverage.8
According to the Angus Reid Institute, more than one in five Canadians (23%) report that they or someone in their household did not take medication as prescribed because of the cost during the past 12 months.9 Statistics Canada's Survey of Household Spending reveals that households headed by a senior spend $724 per year on prescription medications, the highest among all age groups and over 60% more than the average household.10 Another recent study found that 7% of Canadian seniors reported skipping medication or not filling a prescription because of the cost.11
In addition to the very real harms to individuals, lack of coverage contributes to the inefficient use of Canada's scarce health resources. While there are sparse economic data in Canada on this issue, earlier research indicated that this inefficiency, which includes preventable hospital visits and admissions, represents an added cost of between $1 billion and $9 billion annually.12
As an immediate measure to support the health of Canadians and the productivity of the health care sector, the CMA recommends that the federal government establish a new funding program for catastrophic coverage of prescription medication. The program would cover prescription medication costs above $1,500 or 3% of gross household income on an annual basis. Research commissioned by the CMA estimates this would cost $1.48 billion in 2016-17 (Table 2). This would be a positive step toward comprehensive, universal prescription drug coverage.
Table 2: Projected cost of federal contribution to cover catastrophic prescription medication costs, by age cohort, 2016-2020 ($ million)13
Share of total cost
Under 35 years
35 to 44 years
45 to 54 years
55 to 64 years
65 to 74 years
75 years +
Theme 2: Infrastructure and communities
All jurisdictions across Canada are facing shortages in the continuing care sector. Despite the increased availability of home care, research commissioned for the CMA indicates that demand for continuing care facilities will surge as the demographic shift progresses.14
In 2012, it was reported that wait times for access to a long-term care facility in Canada ranged from 27 to over 230 days. It is estimated that 85% of "alternate level of care" patients in hospitals (i.e., patients who do not require hospital-level care) are in these beds because of the lack of availability of long-term care. Due to the significant difference in the cost of hospital care (approximately $846 per day) versus long-term care ($126 per day), the CMA estimates that the shortages in the long-term care sector represent an increased cost of $2.3 billion.
Despite the recognized need for infrastructure investment in the continuing care sector, to date, this sector has been excluded from the Building Canada Plan. The CMA recommends that the federal government amend the criteria of the Building Canada Plan to include capital investment in continuing care infrastructure, including retrofit and renovation. Based on previous estimates, the CMA recommends that $540 million be allocated for 2016-17 (Table 3).
Table 3: Estimated cost to address forecasted shortage in long-term care beds, 2016-20 ($ million)15
Forecasted shortage in long-term care beds
Estimated cost to address shortage
Federal share to address shortage in long-term care beds (based on 1/3 contribution)
Theme 3: Jobs
As previously mentioned, Canada's aging population will produce significant changes in the labour force. There will be fewer Canadian workers, each with a greater likelihood of having caregiving responsibilities for family and friends.
According to the report of the federal Employer Panel for Caregivers, Canadian employers "were surprised and concerned that it already affects 35% of the Canadian workforce."16 This report highlights key findings of the 2012 General Social Survey: 1.6 million caregivers took leave from work; nearly 600,000 reduced their work hours; 160,000 turned down paid employment; and, 390,000 quit their jobs to provide care. It is estimated that informal caregiving represents $1.3 billion in lost workforce productivity. These costs will only increase as Canada's demographic shift progresses.
In parallel to the increasing informal caregiving demands on Canadian workers, Canada's aging population will also increase the demand for personal care workers and geriatric competencies across all health and social care professions.17
Theme 4: Taxation
The above section focused on the economic costs of caregiving on the workforce. The focus of this section will be on the economic value caregivers provide while they take on an increased economic burden.
Statistics Canada's latest research indicates that 8.1 million Canadians are informal caregivers, 39% of whom primarily care for a parent.18 The Conference Board of Canada reports that in 2007 informal caregivers contributed over 1.5 billion hours of home care - more than 10 times the number of paid hours in the same year.19 The economic contribution of informal caregivers was estimated to be about $25 billion in 2009.20 This same study estimated that informal caregivers incurred over $80 million in out-of-pocket expenses related to caregiving in 2009.
Despite their tremendous value and important role, only a small fraction of caregivers caring for a parent received any form of government support.21 Only 5% of caregivers providing care to parents reported receiving financial assistance while 28% reported needing more assistance than they received.22
As a first step to providing increased support for Canada's family caregivers, the CMA recommends that the federal government amend the Caregiver and Family Caregiver Tax Credits to make them refundable. This would provide an increased amount of financial support for family caregivers. It is estimated that this measure will cost $90.8 million in 2016-17.23
The CMA recognizes that in the face of ongoing economic uncertainty the federal government may face pressures to avoid new spending initiatives. The CMA strongly encourages the federal government to adopt the four recommendations outlined in this submission rather than further delay making a meaningful contribution to meeting the future care needs of Canada's aging population. The CMA would welcome the opportunity to provide further information and its rationale for each recommendation.
1 Statistics Canada. Generations in Canada. Cat. No. 98-311-X2011003. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2012. Available: www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/98-311-x/98-311-x2011003_2-eng.pdf
2 Statistics Canada. Canada year book 2012, seniors. Available: www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-402-x/2012000/chap/seniors-aines/seniors-aines-eng.htm
3 Finance Canada. Economic and fiscal implications of Canada's aging population. Ottawa: Finance Canada; 2012. Available: www.fin.gc.ca/pub/eficap-rebvpc/eficap-rebvpc-eng.pdf
4 Canadian Institute for Health Information. National health expenditure trends, 1975 to 2014. Ottawa: The Institute; 2014. Available: www.cihi.ca/web/resource/en/nhex_2014_report_en.pdf
5 Calculation by the Canadian Medical Association, based on Statistics Canada's M1 population projection and the Canadian Institute for Health Information age-sex profile of provincial-territorial health spending.
6 Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Fiscal sustainability report 2015. Ottawa: The Office; 2015. Available: www.pbo-dpb.gc.ca/files/files/FSR_2015_EN.pdf
7 Conference Board of Canada. Research commissioned for the CMA, July 2015.
8 Morgan SG, Martin D, Gagnon MA, Mintzes B, Daw JR, Lexchin J. Pharmacare 2020: The future of drug coverage in Canada. Vancouver: Pharmaceutical Policy Research Collaboration, University of British Columbia; 2015. Available: http://pharmacare2020.ca/assets/pdf/The_Future_of_Drug_Coverage_in_Canada.pdf
9 Angus Reid Institute. Prescription drug access and affordability an issue for nearly a quarter of Canadian households. Available: http://angusreid.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2015.07.09-Pharma.pdf
10 Statistics Canada. Survey of household spending. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2013.
11 Canadian Institute for Health Information. How Canada compares: results From The Commonwealth Fund 2014 International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults. Available: www.cihi.ca/en/health-system-performance/performance-reporting/international/commonwealth-survey-2014
12 British Columbia Pharmacy Association. Clinical service proposal: medication adherence services. Vancouver: The Association; 2013. Available: www.bcpharmacy.ca/uploads/Medication_Adherence.pdf
13 Supra at note 7.
14 Conference Board of Canada. Research commissioned for the CMA, January 2013.
16 Government of Canada. Report from the Employer Panel for Caregivers: when work and caregiving collide, how employers can support their employees who are caregivers. Available: www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/seniors/reports/cec.shtml
17 Stall S, Cummings G, Sullivan T. Caring for Canada's seniors will take our entire health care workforce. Available: http://healthydebate.ca/2013/09/topic/community-long-term-care/non-md-geriatrics
18 Statistics Canada. Family caregivers: What are the consequences? Available: www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2013001/article/11858-eng.htm
19 Conference Board of Canada. Home and community care in Canada: an economic footprint. Ottawa: The Board; 2012. Available: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/cashc/research/2012/homecommunitycare.aspx
20 Hollander MJ, Liu G, Chappeel NL. Who cares and how much? The imputed economic contribution to the Canadian health care system of middle aged and older unpaid caregivers providing care to the elderly. Healthc Q. 2009;12(2):42-59.
21 Supra at note 16.
23 Supra at note 7.
ACHIEVING PATIENT-CENTRED COLLABORATIVE CARE
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) recognizes that collaborative care is a desired and necessary part of health care delivery in Canada and an important element of quality, patient-centred care. The CMA considers patient-centred care to be the cornerstone of good medical practice. This is reflected in the first principle of the CMA Code of Ethics, which states that physicians have a fundamental responsibility to "Consider first the well-being of the patient." As patient advocates, physicians strive to ensure that their patients receive the best possible care.
The CMA supports greater collaboration among providers in the interest of better patient care. In the context of clinical practice, the CMA defines collaborative care as follows:
"Collaborative care entails physicians and other providers using complementary skills, knowledge and competencies and working together to provide care to a common group of patients based on trust, respect and an understanding of each others' skills and knowledge. This involves a mutually agreed upon division of roles and responsibilities that may vary according to the nature of the practice personalities and skill sets of the individuals. The relationship must be beneficial to the patient, and acceptable to the physician and other providers.
If designed appropriately, collaborative care models have the potential to:
* improve access to care;
* enhance the quality and safety of care;
* enhance the coordination and efficiency of care; and
* enhance provider morale and reduce burnout within health professions.
To realize this full potential, the profession acknowledges and accepts that it has a central role to play in the evolution of a team-based approach to care.
These policy principles have been prepared by the Canadian Medical Association in order to ensure that the evolution of collaborative care in Canada is built around the needs of individual patients and groups of patients. This policy is founded on the CMA's document, Putting Patients' First: Patient-Centred Collaborative Care - A Discussion Paper.
Principles for Collaborative Care
The medical profession supports collaborative care, both in the hospital and in the community, as one of the essential elements of health care delivery in Canada. In the interests of enhancing the evolution of patient-centred collaborative care, the CMA proposes the following "critical success factors" and principles to address meaningfully the issues and barriers identified by physicians and bring clarity to the discussions.
1. PATIENT-CENTRED CARE
First and foremost, medical care delivered by physicians and health care delivered by others should be aligned around the values and needs of patients.
Collaborative care teams should foster and support patients, and their families, as active participants in their health care decision-making. New models should have the potential to empower patients to enhance their role in prevention and self-care.
Models of collaborative care must be designed to meet the needs of patients.
Collaborative models of practice must reduce fragmentation and enhance the quality and safety of care provided to patients.
It is the patient who ultimately must make informed choices about the care he or she will receive.
2. RECOGNITION OF THE PATIENT-PHYSICIAN RELATIONSHIP
The mutual respect and trust derived from the patient-physician relationship is the cornerstone of medical care. This trust is founded on the ethical principles that guide the medical profession as defined in the CMA Code of Ethics. The impact of collaborative models of practice on this relationship, and hence the patient's satisfaction and experience with their care, is unknown.
Models of collaborative care must support the patient-physician relationship.
Entry into and exit from a formal collaborative care arrangement must be voluntary for both the patient and the physician.
A common Code of Ethics should guide the practice of collaborative care teams.
Every resident of Canada has the right to access a personal family physician. †
3. PHYSICIAN AS THE CLINICAL LEADER
Effective teams require effective leadership. A defined clinical leader is required to ensure proper functioning of the team and to facilitate decision-making, especially in complex or emergent situations. In collaborative care the clinical leader is responsible for maximizing the expertise and input of the entire team in order to provide the patient with comprehensive and definitive care.
It is important to differentiate "clinical leadership" from "team coordination."
The CMA defines a clinical leader as:
"The individual who, based on his or her training, competencies and experience, is best able to synthesize and interpret the evidence and data provided by the patient and the team, make a differential diagnosis and deliver comprehensive care for the patient. The clinical leader is ultimately accountable to the patient for making definitive clinical decisions."
Whereas, the team coordinator is defined as:
"The individual, who, based on his or her training, competencies and experience, is best able to coordinate the services provided by the team so that they are integrated to provide the best care for the patient."
The concept of "most responsible physician" has been and continues to be used to identify the individual who is ultimately responsible for the care of the patient. The "most responsible physician" is responsible for collecting, synthesizing and integrating the expert opinion of physician and non physician team members to determine the clinical management of the patient. Similarly, the presence of a defined clinical leader in a collaborative care setting creates clarity for patients, their families and the health care team by making lines of communication and responsibility clear, ultimately improving the quality and safety of care.
In the CMA's opinion, the physician is best equipped to provide clinical leadership. This does not necessarily imply that a physician must be the team coordinator. Many teams will exist in which the physician will have a supporting role, including those focused on population health and patient education. We believe the most effective teams are ones in which the leadership roles have been clearly defined and earned. Some physicians may be prepared to play both roles; however, other members of the team may be best suited to serve as team coordinator.
Currently, patients rely on, and expect, physicians to be clinical leaders in the assessment and delivery of the medical care they receive. In a collaborative care environment this expectation of physician leadership will not change. Team members will have specific knowledge and expertise in their respective disciplines. Physicians, by virtue of their broad and diverse knowledge, training and experience, have a unique appreciation of the full spectrum of health and health care delivery in their field of practice and are therefore best qualified to evaluate and synthesize diverse professional perspectives to ensure optimal patient care.
The physician, by virtue of training, knowledge, background and patient relationship, is best positioned to assume the role of clinical leader in collaborative care teams. There may be some situations in which the physician may delegate clinical leadership to another health care professional. Other health care professionals may be best suited to act as team coordinator.
4. MUTUAL RESPECT AND TRUST
Trust between individuals and provider groups evolves as knowledge and understanding of competencies, skills and scopes of practice are gained. Trust is also essential to ensuring that the team functions efficiently and maximizes the contributions of all members.
Funders and providers should recognize the importance of team building in contributing to team effectiveness. Collaborative care funding models should support a more formalized and integrated approach to both change management and team building.
As relationships are strengthened within the team, so too are trust and respect. Physicians and all team members have an opportunity to be positive role models to motivate and inspire their colleagues. All team members ought to make a commitment to respect and trust each other with the knowledge that it will lead to enhanced care for patients and a more productive work environment for all.
To serve the health care needs of patients, there must be a collaborative and respectful interaction among health care professionals, with recognition and understanding of the contributions of each provider to the team.
In order to build trust and respect within the team it is essential that members understand and respect the professional responsibility, knowledge and skills that come with their scope of practice within the context of the team.
5. CLEAR COMMUNICATION
In collaborative care environments, it is essential that all members of the team communicate effectively to provide safe and optimal care. Effective communication is essential to ensure safe and coordinated care as the size of the team expands to meet patient needs. It is the responsibility of all team members to ensure that the patient is receiving timely, clear and consistent messaging.
Physicians can take a leadership role in modeling effective communications throughout the team. In particular, there is an opportunity to enhance the consultation and referral process, in order to provide clear and concise instructions to colleagues and optimize care. Sufficient resources, including dedicated time and support, must be available to the team to maximize these communication requirements.
Effective communication within collaborative care teams is critical for the provision of high quality patient care. Planning, funding and training for collaborative care teams must include measures to support communication within these teams.
Mechanisms must be in place within a collaborative team to ensure that both the patients, and their caregiver(s) where appropriate, receive timely information from the most appropriate provider.
Effective and efficient communications within the collaborative care team, both with the patient and among team members, should be supported by clear documentation that identifies the author.
A common, accessible patient record in collaborative care settings is desirable to ensure appropriate communication between physicians and other health care professionals, to prevent duplication, coordinate care, share information and protect the safety of patients.
An integrated electronic health record is highly desirable to facilitate communication and sharing among team members.
6. CLARIFICATION OF ROLES AND SCOPES OF PRACTICE
In order for the team to function safely and efficiently, it is critically important that the scope of practice, roles and responsibilities of each health care professional on the team be clearly defined and understood. In turn, the patient, as a team member, should also have a clear understanding of the roles and scopes of practice of their providers.
Collaborative care must first and foremost serve the needs of patients, with the goal of enhancing patient care; collaborative care is not contingent upon altering the scope of practice of any provider group and must not be used as a means to expand the scope of practice and/or independence of a health professional group.
Changes in the scope of practice of all provider groups must be done with oversight from the appropriate regulatory authority.
Where non-physicians have been provided with an opportunity to undertake activities related to patient care typically unique to the practice of medicine (e.g., ordering tests), they must not do so independently but undertake these activities within the context of the team and in a manner acceptable to the clinical leader.
The role and scope of practice of each member of the collaborative care team should be clearly understood and delineated in job descriptions and employment contracts.
A formal process for conflict resolution should be in place so that issues can be dealt with in a timely and appropriate manner.
7. CLARIFICATION OF ACCOUNTABILITY AND RESPONSIBILITY
In the context of providing optimal care, providers must be accountable and responsible for the outcome of their individual practice, while sharing responsibility for the proper functioning of the collaborative care team. This individual responsibility is required so that regardless of the number and diversity of providers involved in the team, patients can be assured that their well-being is protected and that the team is working toward a common goal.
In collaborative care teams, a physician should be identified as the person most responsible for the clinical care of individual patients, and as such must be accountable for the care rendered to patients. This is consistent with the commitment made by the physician in the doctor-patient relationship, mirrors the clinical training of the physician relative to other providers, is reflective of the current state of tort law as it applies to medical practice, and is compatible with the structure of care delivery in hospitals and in the community. Clearly, this type of arrangement does not eliminate the necessity for all providers to be accountable for the care that they provide.
It is essential that all providers be responsible and accountable for the care that they provide and for the well-being of the patient.
As clinical leader, the physician should be responsible for the clinical oversight of an individual patient's care.
8. LIABILITY PROTECTION FOR ALL MEMBERS OF THE TEAM
As discussed earlier in this paper, the resolution of the multiplicity of liability issues that result from care delivered by teams requires clearly defined roles and responsibilities in the team setting and the absolute requirement for appropriate and sufficient liability coverage for each health professional. The August 2006 statement of the Canadian Medical Protective Association, Collaborative Care: A medical liability perspective, identifies issues of concern to physicians and proposes solutions to reduce those risks.
All members of a collaborative care team must have adequate professional liability protection and/or insurance coverage to accommodate their scope of practice and their respective roles and responsibilities within the collaborative care team.
Physicians, in their role as clinical leaders of collaborative care teams, must be satisfied with the ongoing existence of appropriate liability protection as a condition of employment of, or affiliation with, other members on collaborative care teams.
Formalized procedures should be established to ensure evidence of this liability protection.
9. SUFFICIENT HUMAN RESOURCES AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Collaborative models of health care delivery hold the promise of enhancing access to care for patients at a time of serious health human resource shortages. However, effective patient-centred collaborative care depends on an adequate supply of physicians, nurses and other providers. Governments and decision-makers must continue to enhance their efforts to increase the number of physicians and nurses available to provide health care services.
Collaborative care should not be seen as an opportunity for governments to substitute one care provider for another simply because one is more plentiful or less costly than the other.
In addition, governments must understand that co-location of individuals in a team is not a requirement for all collaborative care. Where team co-location does not exist, appropriate resources must be dedicated to ensure communication can be timely, effective and appropriate between providers.
Governments, at all levels, must address the serious shortage of physicians to ensure quality patient care for Canadians.
The effective functioning of a collaborative care team depends on the contribution of a physician.
Governments must enhance access to medical care by increasing the number of physicians and providers, and not by encouraging or empowering physician substitution.
10. SUFFICIENT FUNDING & PAYMENT ARRANGEMENTS
Funding must be present to support all aspects of the development of collaborative care teams. At the practice level, remuneration methods for physicians, irrespective of their specialty, must be available to facilitate collaborative care arrangements and environments in which physicians practice. All care delivery models, including collaborative care teams, must have access to adequate and appropriate resources. This includes, but should not be limited to, funding for health human resources, administration/management infrastructure, liability protection, clinical and team/administrative training, team building, and information technology.
Remuneration models should be established in a manner that encourages providers to participate effectively in the delivery of care and team effectiveness.
Reimbursement models must be configured to remunerate the communicator, coordinator, manager, and other roles and responsibilities of providers necessary for the success of collaborative care practice.
The ability of a physician to work in a collaborative care team must not be based on the physician's choice of remuneration. Similarly, patients should not be denied access to the benefits of collaborative practice as a result of the physician's choice of payment model.
Collaborative care relationships between physicians and other health care providers should continue to be encouraged and enhanced through appropriate resource allocation at all levels of the health care system.
Physicians should be appropriately compensated for all aspects of their clinical care and leadership activities in collaborative care teams.
Physicians should not be expected to incur the cost of adopting and maintaining health information technology capabilities that facilitate their ability to participate in collaborative practice teams. Governments must fund and support in an ongoing manner, both financially and technically, the development and integration of electronic health records.
11. SUPPORTIVE EDUCATION SYSTEM
Canada is renowned for a quality medical education system and for the early efforts to enhance interprofessional training. The success of collaborative care requires a commitment towards interprofessional education and is contingent upon the positive attitudes and support of educators. To facilitate a sustainable shift toward collaborative practice, these efforts must be continued and enhanced in a meaningful way. However, governments and educators must ensure that the availability and quality of medical education is not compromised for medical trainees.
Interprofessional education, at the undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education levels, is necessary to facilitate a greater understanding of the potential roles, responsibilities and capabilities of health professions, with the overall goal of building better health care teams founded on mutual respect and trust.
Governments must understand the importance of interprofessional education and fund educational institutions appropriately to meet these new training needs.
Educational opportunities must exist at all levels of training to acquire both clinical knowledge and team effectiveness/leadership training.
Interprofessional education opportunities must not come at the expense of core medical training. High quality medical education must be available to all medical trainees as a first priority.
12. RESEARCH AND EVALUATION
More research and evaluations are necessary to demonstrate the benefits of collaborative care, to foster greater adoption by providers and to attract the necessary investment by governments. Quality management systems must be built into the team to ensure efficiencies can be recorded. Measures of the quality of care, cost effectiveness and patient and provider satisfaction should be evaluated.
Research into the effectiveness of collaborative care models on health outcomes, patient and provider satisfaction and health care cost effectiveness should be ongoing, transparent and supported by governments.
Quality assessment measures must be incorporated into the ongoing work of collaborative care teams.
† Where the term "family physician" is used, it is also meant to include general practitioners.
The Canadian Medical Association will convene a national roundtable to eliminate jurisdictional barriers and establish best-care practices that acknowledge the unique circumstances of Aboriginal communities.
The Canadian Medical Association will convene a national roundtable to eliminate jurisdictional barriers and establish best-care practices that acknowledge the unique circumstances of Aboriginal communities.
The Canadian Medical Association will convene a national roundtable to eliminate jurisdictional barriers and establish best-care practices that acknowledge the unique circumstances of Aboriginal communities.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to present its brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health for consideration as part of its study of "Best Practices and Federal Barriers: Practice and Training of Health Professionals".
The subject under discussion is relevant to both parts of the CMA's mission. The CMA has undertaken considerable activity on the issue. For example, in 2012 and 2013 we participated, with the Canadian Nurses Association and the Health Action Lobby (HEAL) on the Council of the Federation's (CoF) working group on Team-based Care. For many years, the CMA has conducted the National Physician Survey, which develops comprehensive information on physician demographics and practice patterns.
In the past decade a number of health professions have expanded their scopes of practice. In most provinces, for example, pharmacists can now renew prescriptions or provide emergency prescription refills. Ontario has established nurse-practitioner-led primary health care clinics which collaborate with family physicians and others in the community. Nova Scotia has experimented with using paramedics as first-contact primary caregivers in rural or remote areas. Governments expand scopes of practice for a number of possible reasons: cost-effectiveness (i.e. replacing one health professional with a less expensive one); improving access, particularly in areas underserviced by physicians; increasing convenience for patients (for example, allowing a neighbourhood pharmacist to give a flu shot may save the patient from taking time off work for a doctor's appointment): or responding to lobbying by health provider groups.
The CMA believes that ideally, every health care provider should have a scope of practice that is consistent with his or her education and training, and that the health care system should enable them to practice to the fullest extent of this scope. More importantly, the scope of practice of every health professional should enable them to contribute optimally to providing high quality patient-centered care without compromising patient safety. Indeed, the primary reason for expanding the scope of practice of a health professional should be to improve Canadians' health and health care.
In the following pages we will discuss several specific topics related to the Scope of Practice issue, and make recommendations for a possible federal role in supporting best practices among health professionals.
1. A Canada-Wide Approach to Scopes of Practice
Scopes of practice are determined largely by provincial and territorial governments, and each jurisdiction has developed its own regulations regarding what health professional groups may do and under what circumstances. This has led to inconsistency across the country. For example, about half the jurisdictions in Canada allow pharmacists to order laboratory tests and prescribe for minor ailments; provinces vary in the degree to which they fund nurse
practitioner positions; and there is wide variation in how, and even if, physician assistants are regulated.
While recognizing that the authority to determine scopes of practice rests with provincial/territorial governments, CMA believes that it is desirable to work toward consistency in access to health services across Canada.
Recommendation 1: that the federal government work with provincial/territorial governments and with health professional associations to promote a consistent national approach to scope-of-practice expansions
2. Promoting and Facilitating Team-Based Care
The scopes-of-practice issue is closely related to the development of models for team-based care, a development that CMA supports. When Canadians seek health care today, it is mainly to help them maintain their health or to manage chronic diseases. This trend is expected to continue as the population ages and the rate of chronic disease rises correspondingly. For patients who have multiple chronic diseases or disabilities, care needs can be complex and a number of different health and social-services professionals may be providing care to the same person. A patient might, for example, be consulting a family physician for primary health care, several medical specialists for different conditions, a pharmacist to monitor a complex medication regime, a physiotherapist to help with mobility difficulties, health care aides to make sure the patient is eating properly or attending to personal hygiene, and a social worker to make sure his or her income is sufficient to cover health care and other needs.
The complexity of today's health care requires that the system move away from the traditional "silo" method of delivering care and encourage health professionals to work collaboratively to effectively meet patients' needs. The CMA believes that the following factors contribute to the success of inter-professional care:
Patient access to a primary care provider who is familiar with the patient's needs and preferences, and has responsibility for the overall care of the patient, co-ordinating the various providers involved in this care. For more than 30 million Canadians, that primary care provider is a family physician. The College of Family Physicians of Canada believes that family practices can serve as patient's "medical home," in which care is anchored and co-ordinated by a family physician, with access to other health care providers as required.
Mechanisms that encourage collaboration and communication among providers. These include:
o Interdisciplinary primary care practices, such as Family Health Networks in Ontario, which permit patients to access a variety of different health professionals and their expertise from one practice setting;
Widespread use of the electronic health record, which can facilitate information sharing and communication among providers.
A smooth, seamless process for referral from one provider to another.
Role clarity and mutual trust. Each health professional on a care team should have a clear understanding of their own roles and the roles of other team members.
The CoF's Team-Based Care Working Group investigated the critical factors for successful team based care, and identified models in certain provinces that it believed should be considered for rollout across Canada. This rollout could be enhanced if it were encouraged by all governments, including the Government of Canada. In the past, Health Canada has supported demonstration projects in health system reform through the National Primary Care Research Group. The CMA believes that the federal government could take a similar role in future, in supporting and disseminating promising models of inter-professional practice. The dissemination process should be accompanied by a process to rigorously evaluate the effect of such models on health outcomes, quality of patient care, and health care costs.
Recommendation 2: that the Government of Canada support research into and evaluation of innovative models of team-based care, and actively promote the dissemination of successful models nationwide.
Recommendation 3: that Canada Health Infoway work with provinces and territories to increase the adoption of electronic medical records at the point of care and build connectivity among points of care.
3. A Health-Care System That Supports Best Practices in Team-Based Care
We have already discussed the part that governments could play in identifying, disseminating and evaluating models of inter-professional practice. The health care system's planners, funders and managers can also foster team-based care in other ways, such as:
Promoting education in inter-professional care. As the Committee has heard, the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada's guiding principles for medical education include valuing inter-professionalism and incorporating it into residency learning and practice. CMA encourages the development of programs to help new physicians and other health professionals acquire the skills needed to function optimally an in inter-professional setting.
Improving access to health services not funded under the Canada Health Act. At present, patients who do not have private health care coverage must pay out of pocket for physiotherapy, dietitian services, mental health care and most social services. This works against the principles of inter-professional care by hindering access to necessary services; this could compromise patient health and safety.
Undertaking an open and meaningful consultation process when changes to scopes of practice are proposed. CMA's experience has been that physicians are more accepting of changes in other professions' scopes of practice if their medical associations have been involved in negotiation on these changes.
Ensuring that the supply of health professionals in Canada is sufficient to the needs of Canadian patients, by developing, implementing and monitoring human resource plans for all major health professions.
Recommendation 4: that the federal government work with provincial/territorial government and national health professional associations to develop and implement a health human resources plan that ensures Canadians' access to all appropriate health care providers.
In conclusion, the Canadian Medical Association recognizes that the great majority of decisions regarding scopes of practice are made at the provincial/territorial level. But we believe that in order to encourage a Canadian health-care system in which all providers work together, contributing their unique skills and expertise to providing patient-centered, seamless, cost-effective care, the support and encouragement of the federal government will be extremely beneficial.