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.
CORE AND COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH CARE SERVICES
CMA believes that physicians must be actively involved in the decision-making process on core and comprehensive services. It developed a framework for this purpose after review and analysis of national and international decision-making frameworks, and after consideration of the political, policy and legal context of Canadian health care decision making. In addition to the framework, key terms associated with core and comprehensive health care services are operationally defined. Quality of care and ethical and economic factors are considered in a balanced and flexible manner, recognizing that the relative importance of any one factor may vary depending on the health care service being considered.
CMA first prepared this policy in 1994 to help physicians participate in making choices concerning core and comprehensive health care services. Over a decade later, the issue of defining these services remains a central issue for patients, providers and funders of Canada's health care system. Looking ahead, this will become even more pertinent as regional authorities assume greater authority in planning and allocating health funding across a broad range of programs.
Constructive leadership from the medical profession is essential to ensure a high quality Canadian health care system. Specifically, physicians must be actively involved in the decision-making process on core and comprehensive health care services.
CMA reviewed and analyzed several national and international decision-making frameworks and subsequently developed a framework for making decisions about core and comprehensive health care services (Core and Comprehensive Health Care Services: a Framework for Decision Making, CMA, 1994). It also considered the current political, policy and legal context in which decisions on health care are made in Canada. Key terms associated with core and comprehensive health care services were operationally defined.
CMA encourages the use of its framework for making decisions about these services. Quality of care and ethical and economic factors are considered in a balanced and flexible manner, recognizing that the relative importance of any one factor may vary depending on the health care service being considered. Each factor affects decision making at the patient-physician (micro) level, the hospital and regional (meso) level and the provincial, territorial and national (macro) level.
This policy summary addresses the requirement for governments to fund core medical services but not the availability or desirability of private or alternative funding for these services.
Uniform use and interpretation of the terms used in this area are particularly important in policy development, negotiations and communications. The 1984 Canada Health Act stipulates that all "medically necessary" services be insured; however, the act does not define "medically necessary." This lack of a clear operational definition gives the provinces/territories some flexibility in the breadth of coverage provided by their insurance plans. However, it may also cause ambiguity and difficulty in selecting core health care services.
CMA defines medically necessary services as those "that a qualified physician determines are required to assess, prevent, treat, rehabilitate or palliate a given health concern or problem as supported by available scientific evidence and/or professional experience." (Adapted from Core and Comprehensive Health Care Services, page 96.)
Health care services are "not only services provided by or under the supervision of a physician, but also a wide range of services performed by many other health care professionals." (Adapted from Core and Comprehensive Health Care Services, page 92.) Medical services is "a category of health care services provided by or under the supervision of a physician." (Core and Comprehensive Health Care Services, page 96.)
Comprehensive health care and medical services are distinguished from core health care and medical services. Comprehensive health care and medical services are "a broad range of services that covers most, if not all, health care needs. These services may or may not be funded/insured by a government plan." (Core and Comprehensive Health Care Services, page 86.) Core health care and medical services are those that "are available to everyone as funded/insured by a government plan. [Alternative] funding sources for these services are not necessarily excluded." (Core and Comprehensive Health Care Services, page 86.)
Framework for decision making
CMA advocates a systematic and transparent decision-making framework for determining which services are considered core and comprehensive health care services. The framework was originally intended for medical services; however, it can also be applied to health care services. It is flexible so that users may adapt it to their own specific circumstances and needs. It is not a formula or set process that yields a quantifiable result for any given service, nor does it prescribe which services to insure or not insure. CMA has put forth the following principle concerning the framework.
When decisions about core and comprehensive health care services are made, the various levels at which decisions can be made must be considered. These include the patient- physician (micro) level, the hospital and regional (meso) level and the provincial, territorial and national (macro) level.
CMA recognizes that decisions are made at several levels: (1) the micro level, which involves individual decisions about service delivery made by patients, physicians and other providers, (2) the meso level, which involves regional health authorities and health care institutions such as hospitals, community groups and professional staff, and (3) the macro level, which involves system wide decisions made by governments, the electorate and professions as a whole.
It is important to take into account the likely effect of any decision on each level: a decision that is acceptable at the macro level may be impossible to deliver at the meso level and inappropriate for patients or practitioners at the micro level. Coordination is essential to make consistent decisions among levels and incorporate the concerns of patients, providers and payers.
CMA upholds a second principle concerning the decision making framework.
Quality of care and ethical and economic factors must be considered when decisions about core and comprehensive health care services are made.
Quality of care
Effectiveness, efficiency, appropriateness and patient acceptance are elements of quality of care. To be considered a core medical service, a medical service must be of high quality (i.e., it addresses effectively a health concern or condition through improved health outcomes and is delivered efficiently, appropriately and in a manner acceptable to patients) as well as fulfilling ethical and economic criteria. A medical service that is shown to be of little effectiveness cannot be delivered efficiently or poses many problems for patient safety or acceptance is less "medically necessary" than services that meet the quality of care criteria. Such a service is therefore unlikely to become or remain a core medical service.
The adoption of evidence-based medicine such as through the use of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) is a key component of quality improvement. CPGs are based on a systematic review of experience and research, and they help physicians to make decisions about necessary care. CPGs that are well developed and appropriately evaluated may also help to define core health care services. CPGs are also tools for the pursuit of quality, to maximize effective care and to reduce waste and ineffective activity in a given service, resulting in savings.
Clinical research is a key aspect of improvement in quality of care. Such research focuses on the effectiveness and impact of health care services on health outcomes. Procedures that demonstrate better outcomes than others should be included in a core health care package, whereas those that demonstrate inferior outcomes may be limited or excluded in some instances. When applying the concept of core health care services, provision must be made for ongoing evaluation of the quality of current services and appropriate assessment of new ones.
While it is important that the decision-making framework be evidence-based to the greatest extent possible, it should not be evidence-bound - that is, decisions may still need to be made from limited evidence.
Balancing finite fiscal resources and high quality medical and other health care services requires explicit societal choices about which services will be publicly funded (and for whom), which can be purchased and which will not be available at all in the Canadian system. These issues are ethical ones because they involve rights, responsibilities and societal values.
Whether decisions about resource allocation are made at the macro, meso or micro level, they must be fair. This means that those likely to be affected by a decision, whether they are patients, providers or payers, must have adequate opportunity for input into the decision-making process and must be informed about the reasons for the decisions.
When the availability of a health care service is inadequate to meet the demand, the criteria for allocating it should be fair and explicit. One such criterion is medical need: even if not all needed services can be publicly funded, services that are clearly unnecessary should not be funded in this way. Funding decisions should be nondiscriminatory; decisions about which health care services should or should not be publicly funded should not be based on age, sex, race, lifestyle and other personal and social characteristics of the potential recipients of a service.
Economic factors (Cost-effectiveness)
The level of public funding for health care services is ultimately a societal decision, as discussed in the section on ethical factors. Once such a societal decision has been made, economic factors are useful in determining the allocation of resources among health care services, especially in times of fiscal restraint.
There are various economic methods for evaluating funding decisions, the most common of which is cost effectiveness analysis. This approach suggests that decisions to insure a particular service should take into account cost in relation to outcome, e.g., cost per quality-adjusted life-year. Services that have a low cost for a significant gain in effectiveness may be more acceptable for public funding than others. This approach cannot be used in isolation; quality of care and ethical considerations must be taken into account before a final determination of the source of funding for core or comprehensive health care services is made.
Determination of which health care services are to be included in or excluded from a publicly financed health insurance plan should also incorporate an economic analysis of the primary and secondary effects on both the patient and provider populations. Some of the factors that should be included in such an analysis are: availability of substitutes, discretionary income, availability of private insurance, direct and indirect costs of service provision, barriers to entry and the existence of fixed global budgets. Economic analyses also include measurement of the opportunity costs, in terms of foregone services, associated with public financing of health care services. When possible, the public's needs should be distinguished from its wants for the purposes of public policy and funding.
From a clinical perspective, providers have always addressed patient needs on a case-by-case basis. However, fiscal restraint and the rationalization of health care services often result in the onus being placed on the provider to make micro resource allocation decisions. Local decisions (i.e., at the hospital and community level) about the rationalization of health care resources can restrict providers' ability to deliver services and patients' ability to receive them. Therefore, it is critical that the patient and provider perspectives be included in any economic analysis undertaken to define core health care services.
As enunciated in its policy statement, Federal Health Financing, the CMA will urge the federal government to ensure that full funding be available to support provincial and territorial provision of core medical services.
Nevertheless, there remain concerns regarding how the comprehensiveness principle is being interpreted. First, the array of core services varies considerably among the provinces/territories (e.g., prescription drug coverage). Second, the basket of core health services needs to be modernized to reflect Canadians' emerging health needs and how health care is now being delivered (e.g,. more out-patient care).
While a degree of latitude is required to accommodate differing regional needs, core services should be available to all Canadians on uniform terms and conditions and should not be limited to physician and hospital services. There should be ongoing periodic monitoring and reporting of the comparability of Canadians' access to a full range of medically necessary health services across the country.
Furthermore, there is a need for a federal/provincial/territorial process that is transparent, accountable, evidence-based and inclusive to regularly update the basket of core services. CMA will work with provincial/territorial medical associations and other stakeholders to develop a process for defining a national list of core medical services.
Greater transparency is required when de-insuring services, including the need for consultation and providing an adequate notice period for patients, providers and funders.
A new framework is also required to govern the funding of a basket of core health services that allows at least some core services to be cost-shared under uniform terms and conditions in all provinces and territories.
Ensuring equitable access to effective and appropriate health care services is one strategy which can help to mitigate health inequities resulting from differences in the social and economic conditions of Canadians.
Equitable access can be defined as the opportunity of patients to obtain appropriate health care services based on their perceived need for care. This necessitates consideration of not only availability of services but quality of care as well.1
There is far ranging evidence indicating that access to care is not equitable in Canada. Those with higher socio-economic status have increased access for almost every health service available, despite having a generally higher health status and therefore a decreased need for health care. This includes insured services (such as surgery), as well as un-insured services such as pharmaceuticals and long-term care.
Those from disadvantaged groups are less likely to receive appropriate health care even if access to the system is available. They are more likely to report trouble getting appointments, less testing and monitoring of chronic health conditions, and more hospitalizations for conditions that could be avoided with appropriate primary care.
There is a financial cost to this disparity in equitable care. Reducing the differences in avoidable hospitalizations alone could save the system millions of dollars.
Barriers to equitable access occur on both the patient and health care system or supply side. Common barriers include:
(see pdf for correct display of table)
Demand Side or Patient Barriers
Supply Side or System Barriers
Services not located in areas of need
Cultural beliefs and norms
Patients lack family physicians
Lack of management of chronic disease
Cost of transportation
Long waits for service
Time off work for appointments
Payment models which don't account for complexity of patients
Access to child care
Coordination between primary care and speciality care and between health care and community services
Payment for medications or other medical devices/treatments
Standardization of referral and access to specialists and social services
Immobility- due to physical disabilities, and/or mental health barriers
Lack of needs based planning to ensure that population has necessary services
Cognitive issues, ie. Dementia, that adversely affect ability to access and comply with care
Attitudes of health care workers
To tackle barriers on the patient side there is a need to reduce barriers such as transportation and the prohibitive cost of some medically necessary services. Further, there is a need to increase the health literacy of patients and their families/caregivers as well as providing support to health care providers to ensure that all patients are able to be active participants in the management of their care.
On the system side the strategies for action fall into four main categories: patient-centred primary care which focuses on chronic disease management; better care coordination and access to necessary medical services along the continuum of care; quality improvement initiatives which incorporate considerations of equity as part of their mandate; and health system planning and assessment which prioritizes equitable access to care.
Recommendations are provided for CMA and national level initiatives; health care planners; and physicians in practice.
Despite a commitment to equal access to health care for all Canadians there are differences in access and quality of care for many groups. By removing barriers on both the patient and system side it is hoped that greater access to appropriate care will follow.
In Canada as in many countries around the world there are major inequities in health status across the population. Those lower on the socio-economic scale face higher burdens of disease, greater disability and even shorter life expectancies.2 Many of these disparities are caused by differences in social and economic factors such as income and education known as the social determinants of health.3,1 While many of these factors are outside of the direct control of the health care system, ensuring equitable access to effective and appropriate health care services can help to mitigate some of these disparities. The alternative can also be true. In health systems where access to care and appropriateness are unequal and skewed in favour of those of higher socio-economic status, the health system itself can create further inequities and add greater burden to those already at an increased risk of poor health. Physicians as leaders in the health care system can play a role in ensuring equitable access to care for all Canadians.
Equitable Access to Health Care in Canada:
Equitable access can be defined as the opportunity for patients to obtain appropriate health care services based on their perceived need for care. This necessitates consideration of not only availability of services but quality of care as well.4
Due to burden of disease and therefore need, those with lower socio-economic status should be utilizing more services along the continuum.5 That, however, is not the case. Individuals living in lower income neighbourhoods, younger adults and men are less likely to have primary care physicians than their counterparts.6
Primary care physicians deliver the majority of mental illness treatment and they are the main source of referrals to psychiatrists or other specialists. However, much of the care for people with mental illnesses, especially on the lower socio-economic end of the scale, is delivered in emergency rooms, which is both costly and episodic. This is due not only to a lack of primary care access but to a lack of community mental health services.7
Those with higher socio-economic status are much more likely to have access to and utilize specialist services.8 Examples include greater likelihood of catheterization and shorter waits for angiography for patients with myocardial infarction9; and greater access to in-hospital physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech language therapy for those hospitalized with acute stroke10. Low income men and women with diabetes were just as likely to visit a specialist for treatment as high income individuals despite a significantly greater need for care.11
There is a correlation between higher income and access to day surgery.12 A Toronto study found that inpatient surgery patients were of much higher income than medical inpatients.13 Additionally, utilization of diagnostic imaging services is greater among those in higher socio-economic groups.14 Access to preventive and screening programs such as pap smears and mammography are lower among disadvantaged groups.15
Geography can cause barriers to access. In general rural Canadians have higher health care needs but less access to care.16 People in northern and rural communities typically have to travel great distances to obtain health services as many, especially specialist services, cannot be obtained in their home community.17 Those living in the most rural communities in Canada are the least likely to have a regular family doctor, or to have had a specialist physician visit.18 According to data from the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada, 21% of the Canadian population is rural while only 9.4% of family physicians and 3% of specialists are considered rural.19 This lack of access to specialists and other medically necessary services can lead to delays in treatment and harm to health including unnecessary pain and permanent disability.20 Further, travel for necessary treatment often comes with a significant financial cost.21
It is not just access to insured services that is a problem in Canada. Many Canadians do not have access to needed pharmaceuticals. Researchers have reported that those in the lowest income groups are three times less likely to fill prescriptions, and 60% less able to get needed tests because of cost.22 The use of appropriate diabetes preventative services, medication, and blood glucose testing, has been shown to be dependent on out of pocket expenditures.23
Rehabilitation services are difficult for some Canadians to access as well. Services such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy are often not covered unless they are provided in-hospital or to people on certain disability support programs. This leads to long wait times for services that are covered or no access at all.24 Adding to these inequities is the fact that different programs are covered in different provinces and territories.25
Access to mental health services is a major challenge for Canadians. According to data from Statistics Canada, more than half a million Canadians who had a perceived need for mental health care services, reported that their needs were unmet. Access to counselling services was the most frequent unmet need reported.26 A number of important mental health professionals - notably psychologists and counsellors - are not funded through provincial health budgets, or are funded only on a very limited basis. Access to psychologists is largely limited to people who can pay for them, through private insurance or out of their own pockets.27,2
Access to subsidized residential care, long-term care, home care and end-of-life care is problematic as well. Those with means can access high quality long-term care services within their community, while those with inadequate resources are placed in lower quality facilities sometimes hours away from family and friends.28 Even with expansions promised by governments, home care will not be able to meet the needs of underserved groups such as those living in rural and remote areas.29 Finally, only a fraction of patients have access to or receive palliative and end-of-life care. Those living in rural or remote areas or living with disabilities have severely limited access to formal palliative care.30
Difficulties in access are particularly acute for Canada's Aboriginal peoples. Many live in communities with limited access to health care services, sometimes having to travel hundreds of miles to access care.31 Additionally, there are jurisdictional challenges; many fall through the cracks between the provincial and federal health systems. While geography is a significant barrier for Aboriginal peoples, it is not the only one. Aboriginals living in Canada's urban centres also face difficulties. Poverty, social exclusion and discrimination can be barriers to needed health care. Of all federal spending on Aboriginal programs and services only 10% is allocated to urban Aboriginals. This means that Aboriginals living in urban areas are unable to access programs such as Aboriginal head start, or alcohol and drug services, which would be available if they were living on reserve.32 Further, even when care is available it may not be culturally appropriate. Finally, Canada's Aboriginal peoples tend to be over-represented in populations most at risk and with the greatest need for care, making the lack of access a much greater issue for their health status.33
However, these examples are only part of the story as accessing care which is inappropriate cannot be considered equitable access.34 Those of lower socio-economic status are more likely to use inpatient services; show an increased use of family physician services once initial contact is made;35 and have consistently higher hospitalization rates; 36 This could be due to the higher burden of need or could demonstrate that the services that are received are not addressing the health care needs of those lower on the socio-economic scale.37
Women and men from low-income neighbourhoods are more likely to report difficulties making appointments with their family doctors for urgent non-emergent health problems. They were also more likely to report unmet health care needs.38 In terms of hospitalizations, people with lower socio-economic status were much more likely to be hospitalized for ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSC) and mental health39; admissions which could potentially be avoided with appropriate primary care.40 They were also found to have on average longer lengths of stay.41 According to a study of hospitals in the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network, patients considered to be Alternate Level of Care were more likely to have a low-income profile.42
Further, people with ACSC in low-income groups, those living in rural areas, or those with multiple chronic conditions were twice as likely to report the use of emergency department services for care that could have been provided by a primary care provider.43
There is a financial cost to this disparity. According to a 2011 report, low-income residents in Saskatoon alone consume an additional $179 million in health care costs than middle income earners.44 A 2010 study by CIHI found increased costs for avoidable hospitalizations for ambulatory care sensitive conditions were $89 million for males and $71 million for females with an additional $248 million in extra costs related to excess hospitalizations for mental health reasons.45
Areas for Action:
As the background suggests, equitable access is about more than just utilization of services. There are patient characteristics as well as complex factors within the health system which determine whether equitable access is achieved. Recent work has categorized access as having considerations on the supply of services and demand of patients for care. On the demand or patient side we must consider: ability to perceive; ability to seek, ability to reach, ability to pay, and ability to engage. On the supply side or health system considerations include: approachability; acceptability, availability and accommodation, affordability, and appropriateness. 46 The following table highlights some of the current barriers to equitable access.
(See PDF for correct display of table)
Demand Side or Patient Barriers
Supply Side or System Barriers
Services not located in areas of need
Cultural beliefs and norms
Patients lack family physicians
Lack of management of chronic disease
Cost of transportation
Long waits for service
Time off work for appointments
Payment models which don't account for complexity of patients
Access to child care
Coordination between primary care and speciality care and between health care and community services
Payment for medications or other medical devices/treatments
Standardization of referral and access to specialists and social services
Immobility- due to physical disabilities, and/or mental health barriers
Lack of needs based planning to ensure that population has necessary services
Cognitive issues, ie. Dementia, that adversely affect ability to access and comply with care
Attitudes of health care workers
Patient based actions for improving equitable access:
Low health literacy can lead to difficulties for some Canadians in perceiving a need for care.47 Evidence suggests that more than half of Canadian adults (60%), lack the capacity to obtain, understand and act upon health information and services in order to make health decisions on their own.48 Many physicians are undertaking strategies to minimize this lack of health literacy among their patients. Examples include plain language resources as well as teach-back exercises which allow physicians to determine whether patients have fully understood the information provided.49 These efforts should continue to be supported.
Understanding how the health system works and where to access services can be a problem for some individuals.50 Beliefs about the need and value for certain services can also undermine the ability of patients in seeking care.51 Work needs to be done to ensure that disadvantaged groups are aware of the services that are available to them and the benefits of taking preventative steps in their health.
Low-income Canadians are ten times more likely to report unmet needs of health care due to the cost of transportation.52 Other barriers include a lack of child care, and ability to get time off work to attend necessary health appointments.53 Strategies that provide patients with transportation to appointments or subsidies for such travel have seen some success. Extended office hours and evening appointments can increase access for those unable to take time off work. Additionally, programs that provide patients with home visits from health care providers can help to eliminate this barrier. Further support and expansion of these programs should be explored.
There is also the inability to pay for services not covered by provincial plans such as pharmaceuticals, physiotherapy and other rehabilitation services.54 According to a 2005 report on diabetes in Canada, affordability and access to medical supplies was the biggest challenge for those Canadians living with diabetes.55 Access to services such as mental health counselling, subsidized residential care, and long-term care are also hindered by the inability to pay.
Even if patients are able to obtain care they may not be able to fully engage. Language difficulties, low health literacy, cognitive challenges (ie. Dementia), cultural mores and norms, and discrimination or insensitivity of health care workers, may all act as barriers to full participation in care.56 Efforts should be made to develop teaching methods to improve engagement of patients and their families/caregivers from disadvantaged groups.57 Strategies to remove or minimize the barriers created by a lack of health literacy should be developed and shared with physicians and other health care providers. Further, programs which facilitate access to services including interpretation and translation of key health information should be supported.58
Finally, an understanding of a patient's cultural and social context is important. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada have developed training modules for physicians who will be working with Canada's Aboriginal peoples.59 Similar programs have been developed by the Canadian Paediatric Society, and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. More of this training is needed and should focus on groups who are likely to experience disadvantage in health care access and appropriateness.
Recommendations for action:
CMA and National Level Initiatives
The CMA recommends that:
1. Governments develop a national strategy for improving the health literacy of Canadians which takes into account the special needs of different cultures.
2. Governments provide accessible and affordable transportation options for patients requiring medical services when such services are unavailable locally.
3. Governments, in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public, establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies.
4. Governments examine methods to ensure that low-income and other disadvantaged Canadians have greater access to needed medical interventions such as rehabilitation services, mental health, home care, and end-of-life care.
5. Governments explore options to provide funding for long-term care services for all Canadians.
6. Governments ensure that necessary interpretation and translation services are provided at all points of care.
Physicians in Practice
The CMA recommends that
7. Physicians be supported in addressing the health literacy of their patients and their families/caregivers.
8. Physician education programs continue to emphasize the important cultural and social contexts in which their patients live.
System based actions for improving equitable access:
On the system side there are two main areas that need to be addressed: making sure that people can access the services that they need (approachability, availability and accommodation, and affordability); and ensuring that once they have accessed the system that services are appropriate for their health needs (acceptability and appropriateness). Strategies for action include: patient-centred primary care which focuses on chronic disease management; better care coordination and greater access to necessary medical services along the continuum; quality improvement initiatives which incorporate equity as part of their mandate; and health system planning and assessment which prioritizes equitable access to care.
1. Patient-centred primary care which focuses on chronic disease management and which includes programs to increase access to those most at need.
Comprehensive primary care offers the biggest possibility for increasing equitable access and reducing health disparities. Data from a large population study in Ontario indicates that inequities in access to primary care and appropriate chronic disease management are much larger than inequities in the treatment of acute conditions.60
Currently many primary care services are located outside of the neighbourhoods with the greatest need for care. While some are accessible through public transportation, there is still a need for more convenient access for these communities. Community health centres (CHC) offer a good model for addressing this challenge through location in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and the provision of culturally appropriate care.61 Additionally, CHCs offer a number of different health, and sometimes social services, under one roof making access to many different types of care more convenient for patients.
More work needs to be done to to reduce barriers in access to Canadians living in rural and remote communities. Telemedicine is one strategy that has increased access for rural Canadians. The Ontario Telemedicine Network is one example of this innovative approach. Patients in rural communities can have access to specialists in urban centres through their local health providers. Examples include cardiac rehab follow-up, tele-homecare to support lifestyle changes, and psychiatric or mental health consultations.62
Programs which encourage recruitment and training of health professionals from rural and disadvantaged populations have been found to increase access as these individuals are more likely to return to their home communities to practice.63
Medical schools have been attempting to increase the diversity in their schools for a number of years. However, work still needs to be done. Data from the 2012 student component of the National Physician Survey shows that 278 of the 2000 students who responded to the survey (13.9%) come from families considered to be in the top 1% of earners in Canada. This is compared to only 46 (2.3%) of students whose family incomes place them in the bottom quintile of earners. 64
One of the suggested strategies for increasing diversity in medical schools is increasing the knowledge about the medical profession among rural and disadvantaged young people. An innovative program in Alberta called Mini Docs allows children between the ages of six and 12 to learn about being a doctor and how to stay healthy. The children get to wear medical scrubs for the day and use harmless medical tools such as stethoscopes and bandages. The day long program is run by medical students.65
Strategies to remove financial barriers to access, such as scholarships, should be expanded. Further, there is a need to modify the admissions process to recognize the differences in access to programs such as MCAT preps and overseas volunteer experiences based on the availability of financial resources as well as the necessity of employment for some students while in medical school. This necessary employment may limit the time available for volunteer and community service.66
Another strategy that can be effective in increasing access is programs that seek to link primary care providers with unattached and underserved patients. Programs such as Health Care Connect in Ontario and the GP and Me program in British Columbia actively seek to link sometimes hard to serve patients to appropriate primary care.
The College of Family Physicians of Canada has developed a blueprint for comprehensive primary care for Canadians. The concept, a 'patient's medical home' seeks to link Canadians with a comprehensive health care team led by a family physician. These medical homes will take many forms but will be designed to increase both access and the patient-centredness of care.67
Another barrier to access is timeliness of service. Many patients are forced to use walk in clinics or emergency departments as they cannot receive the required care from their primary care providers. Use of walk-in clinics or emergency departments for primary care may lead to lost opportunities for prevention and health promotion.68 Advanced access programs can help to improve equitable access to care by facilitating timely appointments for all patients.69 The AIM (Access improvement measures) program in Alberta uses a system designed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement to redesign practice to focus on same day appointments and elimination of unnecessary delays.70
Primary care which prioritizes chronic disease management offers the greatest potential for increasing appropriateness of care and reducing system costs. Those most likely to have chronic diseases are also those who face the biggest barriers to equitable access.71 Currently many people with ACSC do not receive the appropriate tests to monitor their conditions, management of their medications, or supports to self-manage their disease.72 Some programs do exist to encourage more effective management of chronic disease. The Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) in Ontario has developed a cardiovascular disease prevention network to improve care through the use of evidence based practices and better integration between all areas of the health care continuum.73 Primary Care networks in Alberta have similar goals designed to connect multiple physicians, clinics and regions together to support the health needs of the population.74
Further work is necessary to expand these types of programs and to provide appropriate compensation models for complex patients. Payment models in some jurisdictions undermine access by failing to take morbidity and co-morbidity into consideration in designing rates such as equal capitation.75
Finally, there is a need to encourage greater self-management of disease. Practice support programs in British Columbia are providing training to support physicians in increasing patient self-management and health literacy.76 Additional programs of this nature are necessary in all jurisdictions.
2. Better care coordination and greater access to necessary medical services along the continuum of care.
Patient-centred care which integrates care across the continuum and which includes community services will be necessary to ensure not only greater access but greater acceptability of care.77 Innovative programs focused on increasing the coordination in terms of transition from hospital to home have shown some success in preventing readmissions particularly when vulnerable populations are targeted.78 Health Links in Ontario aims to reduce costs, based on the assumption that much of the utilization of high cost services, such as emergency department visits, could be prevented with better coordinated care. One of the pilot sites in Guelph aims to assign one person in primary care, likely a doctor or a nurse, to be the primary contact for patients deemed high need and to intervene on behalf of these patients to ensure better care coordination.79
Further work is needed to ensure greater coordination in speciality care. As the evidence demonstrates, access to specialist services are skewed in favour of high-income patients. To reduce this inequity it may be necessary to standardize the referral process and facilitate the coordination of care from the primary care providers' perspective.80 A new program in British Columbia is designed to reduce some of these barriers by providing funding and support to rapid access programs which allow family physicians to access specialist care through a designated hotline. If no specialist is available immediately there is a commitment that the call will be returned within two hours. Specialists available through this program include cardiology, endocrinology, nephrology, psychiatry, and internal medicine among others.81 Similar programs in other jurisdictions could help to increase coordination between primary and speciality care.
Care coordination is only part of the problem, however. There is also a need to increase the access to services that are medically necessary across the care continuum. These include a lifetime prevention schedule82, diagnostic testing, specialty services, and access to appropriate rehabilitation services, mental health, long-term care and end of life care.
3. Quality improvement initiatives which incorporate considerations of equity as part of their mandate.
Equity has become a key component of many quality improvement initiatives around the world. The Health Quality Council Ontario identified nine attributes of a high-performing health system: safe, effective, patient-centred, accessible, efficient, equitable, integrated, appropriately resourced, and focused on population health.83
The POWER study, a large study of Ontario residents found that where there were targeted programs for quality improvement fewer inequities were observed. In particular they referred to the actions of Cancer Care Ontario and the Ontario Stroke Network. Both of these groups had undergone large quality improvement initiatives to standardize care and increase coordination of services through evidence-based guidelines and ongoing performance measurement. Considerations of accessibility and equity were specifically included. As a result of these efforts, the POWER study found that acute cancer and stroke care in Ontario were quite equitable.84
Similar efforts are underway in other jurisdictions. The Towards Optimized Practice initiative in Alberta supports efforts in medical offices to increase the use of clinical practice guidelines for care as well as quality improvement initiatives.85 Encouraging more health services and programs to undertake such quality improvement initiatives could help to reduce the inequities in access for all Canadians.
4. Health system planning and assessment which prioritizes equitable access to care
Considerations of equity must be built specifically into all planning considerations. Too often services are designed without adequate consideration of the specific needs of disadvantaged groups. Planners need to do a better job of understanding their practice populations and tailoring programs to those most in need of care.86 This planning should be done in consultation with other sectors that play a role in influencing the health of their practice populations.
Further, assessments of the equity and use of services is also needed. Some services may be designed in a way that is more appropriate for some than others, resulting in higher utilization among some groups and a lack of access for others.87 Innovative work is taking place in the Saskatoon Health Region to try and understand these barriers. Health care services are undergoing specific health equity assessments to ensure that all services meet the needs of diverse populations. This includes looking at the full spectrum of services from preventative care and education programs to tertiary level care such as dialysis. In Ontario, the local health integration networks (LHIN) have now been tasked with developing equity plans for their services. Clear goals and performance measurements are part of this work.88
One of the tools available to support this work is a health equity impact assessment tool developed by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. This tool is intended for use by organizations within the health system as well as those outside the system who will impact on the health of Ontarians. The main focus of the tool is to reduce inequities that result from barriers in access to quality health services. Additionally, it is designed to identify unintended health impacts, both positive and negative, before a program or policy is implemented.89 Further work is needed to ensure that equity is included in the deliverables and performance management of health care organizations and provider groups across the country.90
To support these planning programs appropriate data will need to be collected. This data needs to be comprehensive for all services and needs to include specific data points which will allow planners as well as providers to understand the composition of their populations as well as measure and report on considerations of equity.91
Recommendations for action:
CMA and National Level Initiatives
The CMA recommends that:
9. Governments continue efforts to ensure that all Canadians have access to a family physician.
10. Appropriate compensation and incentive programs be established in all jurisdictions to support better management of chronic disease for all Canadians.
11. Governments provide funding and support to programs which facilitate greater integration between primary and speciality care.
12. With support from government, national medical organizations develop programs to increase standardization of care and the use of appropriate clinical practice guidelines.
13. Appropriate data collection and performance measurement systems be put in place to monitor equitable distribution of health services and greater appropriateness of care.
Health System Planners
The CMA recommends that:
14. Needs based planning be mandated for all health regions and health system planning. Equity impact assessment should be part of this planning to ensure that services meet the needs of all Canadians.
15. Chronic disease management and other supportive strategies for vulnerable patients at risk of frequent readmission to the acute care system be prioritized in all health systems.
16. Quality improvement initiatives be mandated in all care programs. These programs should include a specific focus on standardization of care and continuous quality improvement and should include equity of access as part of their mandate.
Physicians in Practice
The CMA recommends that:
17. Physicians be supported in efforts to offer timely access in primary care settings.
18. Physicians be supported in continued efforts to include all patients in decisions about their care and management of their illnesses.
19. Physicians be supported in continued efforts to standardize care and utilize evidence based clinical practice guidelines with a particular emphasis on the management of chronic disease.
20. Physicians be encouraged and adequately supported to participate in community-based interventions that target the social determinants of health.
Despite a commitment to equal access to health care for all Canadians there are differences in access and quality of care for many groups. For those that are most vulnerable, this lack of access can serve to further exacerbate their already increased burden of illness and disease. The strategies discussed above offer some opportunities for the health sector and the medical profession to intervene and mitigate this inequity. By removing barriers on both the patient and system side it is hoped that greater access to appropriate care will follow. While these strategies offer some hope, these actions alone will not be sufficient to increase the overall health of the Canadian population. Action is still required to tackle the underlying social and economic factors which lead to the disparities in the health of Canadians.
1 This paper represents a focus on equitable access to care. For a more general policy statement on the role of physicians in addressing the social determinants of health please see: Canadian Medical Association. Health Equity and the Social Determinants of Health: A Role for the Medical Profession. Ottawa, ON; 2012. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD13-03.pdf
2 The Canadian Medical Association is currently developing a policy paper on access to mental health services in Canada. It is anticipated that this policy statement will be completed in 2014.
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42 Murphy K, Glazier R, Wang X, et al. Hospital Care for All...
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44 Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership. From poverty to possibility...and prosperity: A Preview to the Saskatoon Community Action Plan to Reduce Poverty. Saskatoon (SK): Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership; 2011.Available: http://www.saskatoonpoverty2possibility.ca/pdf/SPRP%20Possibilities%20Doc_Nov%202011.pdf (accessed 2012 Mar 13)
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49 Parnell TA, Turner J. IHI 14th Annual International Summit. Health Literacy: Partnering for Patient-Centred Care. April 9, 2013.
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56 Bierman A, Angus J, Ahmad F, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Access to Health Care Services : Chapter 7.... Willems S, De Maesschalck S, Deveugele M, et al. Socio-economic status of the patient and doctor-patient communication: does it make a difference? Patient Educ Couns 2004; 56: 139-146; Williamson DL, Stewart MJ, Hayward K. Low-income Canadians' experiences...
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59 Indigenous Physicians of Canada and the Association of Faculties of Medicine Canada, "First Nations, Inuit, Métis Health, Core Competencies: A Curriculum Framework for Undergraduate Medical Education"
Updated April 2009, online: http://www.afmc.ca/pdf/CoreCompetenciesEng.pdf (accessed October 20, 2010).
60 Bierman AS, Shack AR, Johns A. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Achieving Health Equity in Ontario: Opportunities for Intervention and Improvement: Chapter 13. Toronto (ON) Project for and Ontario Women's Health Evidence-Based Report; 2012.Available: http://powerstudy.ca/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/10/Chapter13-AchievingHealthEquityinOntario.pdf (accessed 2013 Feb 6).
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62 Williams, R. Telemedicine in Ontario: Fact not Fiction: How to enhance your practice and enrich the patient experience. Ontario Telemedicine Network: Toronto, ON; 2013. Available: http://otn.ca/sites/default/files/telemedicine_in_ontario-_fact_not_fiction_02-26.pdf (accessed 2013 Sep 19).
63 Bowen, S. Access to Health Services for Underserved Populations...
64 National Physician Survey- 2012 student component
65 Alberta Medical Association. Mini Docs. Edmonton (AB); 2012. Available: https://www.albertadoctors.org/about/awards/health-promo-grant/2011-12-recipients/mini-docs (accessed 2013 Apr 18).
66 Dhalla IA, Kwong JC, Streiner DL et al. Characteristics of first-year students in Canadian...
67 The College of Family Physicians of Canada . A Vision for Canada: Family Practice: The Patient's Medical Home. Toronto, ON; 2011. Available: http://www.cfpc.ca/uploadedFiles/Resources/Resource_Items/PMH_A_Vision_for_Canada.pdf (accessed 2012 Mar 15).
68 Bierman A, Angus J, Ahmad F, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Access to Health Care Services : Chapter 7...
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72 Canadian Institute for Health Research. Disparities in Primary Health Care Experiences...
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74 About Primary Care Networks. Edmonton (AB): Alberta Primary Care Initiative. Available at: http://www.albertapci.ca/AboutPCNs/Pages/default.aspx (accessed 2013 Mar 12).
75 Glazier RH. Balancing Equity Issues in Health Systems: Perspectives of Primary Healthcare. Healthcare Papers 2007; 8(Sp):35-45.
76 General Practice Services Committee. Learning Modules-Practice Management. Vancouver (BC): Government of British Columbia & British Columbia Medical Association. Available: http://www.gpscbc.ca/psp/learning/practice-management (accessed 2013 Mar 12).
77 Bierman A, Angus J, Ahmad F, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Access to Health Care Services : Chapter 7...
78 Bierman AS, Shack AR, Johns A. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Achieving Health Equity in Ontario: Opportunities for Intervention and Improvement: Chapter 13...
79 Improving Care for High-Needs Patients: McGuinty Government Linking Health Providers, Offering Patients More Co-ordinated Care. Toronto (ON) Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care; December 6, 2012. Available: http://news.ontario.ca/mohltc/en/2012/12/improving-care-for-high-needs-patients.html (accessed 2012 Dec 10).
80 Curtis LJ, MacMinn WJ. Health-Care Utilization in Canada: 25 Years of Evidence...
81 Shared Care Partners in Care Annual Report 2011/12. Vancouver (BC): Government of British Columbia & British Columbia Medical Association. Available: https://www.bcma.org/files/SC_annual_report_2011-12.pdf (accessed 2013 Mar 12).
82 British Columbia Medical Association. Partners in Prevention: Implementing a Lifetime Prevention Plan. Vancouver, BC; 2010. Available: https://www.bcma.org/files/Prevention_Jun2010.pdf (accessed 2013 Sep 18).
83 Bierman AS, Shack AR, Johns A. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Achieving Health Equity in Ontario: Opportunities for Intervention and Improvement: Chapter 13...
85 Toward Optimized Practice. Edmonton (AB). Available at: http://www.topalbertadoctors.org/index.php (accessed 2013 Mar 12).
86 Ali A, Wright N, Rae M ed. Addressing Health Inequalities: A guide for general practitioners. London (UK); 2008. Available: http://www.rcgp.org.uk/policy/rcgp-policy-areas/~/media/Files/Policy/A-Z%20policy/Health%20Inequalities%20Text%20FINAL.ashx (accessed 2012 Jan 16); Gardner, B. Health Equity Road Map Overview. Toronto (ON): Wellesley Institute, 2012. Available: http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/HER_Systemic-Health-Inequities_Aug_2012.pdf (accessed 2013 Feb 6).
87 Bowen, S. Access to Health Services for Underserved Populations...
88 Gardner B. Health Equity Into Action: Planning and Other Resources for LHINs. Toronto(ON) Wellesley Institute; 2010. Available: http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Health_Equity_Resources_for_LHINs_1.pdf (accessed 2013 Feb 6).
89 Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA) Workbook. Toronto, ON; 2012. Available: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/heia/docs/workbook.pdf (accessed 2013 Sep 30).
90 Bierman AS, Johns A, Hyndman B, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report: Social Determinants of Health & Populations at Risk: Chapter 12...; Gardner, B. Health Equity Road Map...; Glazier RH. Balancing Equity Issues in Health Systems...
91 Bierman AS, Shack AR, Johns A. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Achieving Health Equity in Ontario: Opportunities for Intervention and Improvement: Chapter 13...
Federal Health Financing (Update 2008)
The Canadian Medical Association believes that financial support from the federal government for health care should provide the following:
* The maintenance and improvement of standards of health care service across Canada.
* The financial stability necessary to effectively plan health care delivery and flexibility in spending across Canada to respond to local circumstances, emerging health needs, and new patient-care modalities.
* The indexing of federal health cash payments to provinces and territories to reflect changes in population growth, ageing, epidemiology, current knowledge, new technology and economic growth.
* Greater accountability, visibility and improved linkages of services to users.
* Greater equity across the provinces and territories in the ability to finance necessary health care programs.
* The joint policy discussions necessary to address health issues of national importance.
The CMA is committed to preserving the right of reasonable access to high-quality health care regardless of ability to pay. It is also committed to achieving national health care standards (accessibility, universality, portability, comprehensiveness and public administration) and to developing health goals to ensure that all Canadians receive the best possible care when required. The CMA supports the goal of maintaining the national integrity of the health care system. It encourages the federal government to be sensitive to the concerns of equity, and to ensure that provinces and territories that have not attained a level of health care services and facilities equivalent to those of other provinces and territories, because of fiscal incapacities, have access to additional funding requirements to reduce the gap. The CMA recognizes that flexibility in spending across Canada is important to respond to changing health care needs and changes in the delivery of health care, as is the necessity of joint policy discussions to address health issues of national importance. Stability in funding is viewed as the mechanism to achieving effective health care planning.
Over 50 years of federal financing
In 1957 and 1966, the federal government introduced the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act and Medicare Act. These programs reflected the federal government's desire to implement 50-50 basis with the provinces for the funding of hospital and physician services. The federal support was program specific, with contributions determined to be about half the national average of per-capita expenditures on health care. This provided greater assistance to provinces with lower per-capita costs.
In 1977, the funding arrangement was replaced by the negotiated Established Programs Financing (EPF) arrangements. The new "block-funding" agreement established a predetermined level of financial contributions by the federal government that was linked to the rate of change of gross national product (GNP) and changes in the provincial/territorial populations. It is important to note that federal transfers are comprised of cash and tax points.
The objectives of the EPF arrangements as set out by the Prime Minister in June 1976, were (a) to maintain across Canada the standards of service to the public under these major programs, and to facilitate their improvement; (b) to put the programs on a more stable footing, so that both levels of government are better able to plan their expenditures; (c) to give the provinces the flexibility of in the use of their own funds which they have been spending in these fields; (d) to bring about greater equity among the provinces with regard to the amount of federal funds that they receive under the program; and (e) to provide for continuing joint policy discussions relating to the health and post-secondary education fields.
The need for funding predictability
Over the course of their existence, the EPF arrangements were amended four times - 1982 (Bill C-97), 1984 (Bill C-96), 1989 (Bill C-33) and 1991(Bill C-69). These changes resulted in freezes in the growth of federal health transfers and created a period of funding uncertainty for provinces and territories.
On April 1, 1996, the federal government introduced the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) which combined two transfer programs, EPF and the Canada Assistance Plan into one transfer program for insured health services, post secondary education and social assistance programs. Cash payments under the CHST were subject to the five program criteria of the Canada Health Act (1984) - accessibility, portability, comprehensiveness, and public administration as well as the single condition that the province/territory must provide social assistance to applicants without a minimum residency requirement.
In combining these programs the federal government used the opportunity to cut cash entitlements to the provinces/territories from $18.5 billion per year 1995-1996 to a low of $11.1 billion per year in 1999-2000. However, due to improving economic conditions and a rapidly impending balanced budget, the federal government announced in its September 1997 Throne Speech that it would be increasing the cash floor to $12.5 billion per year in 1998-1999 to 2002-2003. This measure was announced in the 1998-1999 budget; however, rather than an increase in funding, it was merely a partial reversal in cash reductions to the provinces/territories.
Targeted federal financing
Since 2000, the federal government has increased the use of targeted investments and in the health arena.
On Sept. 11, 2000, First Ministers issued a Communiqué on Health announcing a series of investments, over five years, which focused on health and other social programs. The CHST cash floor was "increased" by $2.5 billion effective April 1, 2001.
The February 2003 Budget in support of that year's First Ministers' Accord on Health Care Renewal confirmed: (1) a two-year extension to 2007-2008 of the five-year legislative framework put in place in September 2000, with an additional $1.8 billion; (2) a $2.5 billion CHST supplement, giving provinces the flexibility to draw down funds as they require up to the end of 2005-2006; and (3) the restructuring of the CHST to create a separate Canada Health Transfer and a Canada Social Transfer effective April 1, 2004, in order to increase transparency and accountability.
In September 2004, First Ministers signed an agreement on health care that included commitments to reduce wait times, address gaps in health human resources, expand home care, continue efforts in primary care reform, implement a national pharmaceutical strategy, and develop national public health goals.
To support the new agreement, the federal government committed to increase health funding by a total of $18 billion over 6 years or $41 billion over 10 years. This includes:
* $3 billion to close the "short-term Romanow gap;"
* $500 million for home care and catastrophic coverage;
* $4.5 billion for a Wait Time Reduction Fund;
* $1 billion for health human resources (to be transferred in last four years of agreement);
* $500 million for medical equipment; and
* a 6% escalator for the Canada Health Transfer.
The 2007 budget provided over one billion additional dollars for the health care system mainly through a $612 million investment to accelerate the implementation of patient wait-time guarantees, $400 million for Canada Health Infoway to support the further development of health information systems and electronic records, and $300 million for a vaccine program to protect women and girls against cancer of the cervix.
Clarifying responsibilities and accountability
The 2007 budget made reference to the federal government's constitutional responsibilities for health care and stressed an increased concern of accounting for federal health transfers to the provinces/territories.
The Oct. 16, 2007 Speech from the Throne, to open the second session of the 39th Parliament of the Government of Canada, included a commitment to introduce legislation that would place formal limits on the use of the federal spending power for new cost-shared programs in areas of provincial/territorial jurisdiction, and would also provide an opt-out option with compensation for provinces and territories if they offer compatible programs.
The main foundation for this proposal is set out in the Feb. 4, 1999 Social Union Framework Agreement (SUFA), in which the federal government gave several undertakings with regard to new "Canada-wide initiatives" in areas of provincial jurisdiction:
* collaboration with provincial/territorial governments to identify priorities and objectives;
* not to introduce new initiatives without agreement of a majority of provincial governments;
* provincial/territorial governments to determine detailed program design and mix;
* provincial/territorial governments can reinvest any funds not needed to deliver objectives;
* federal/provincial/territorial governments to agree on accountability framework; and
* funding to be contingent on meeting or committing to objectives specified in accountability framework.
The most notable application of SUFA principles in respect of new programs to date has been the Sept. 15, 2004 Asymmetrical Federalism that Respects Quebec's Jurisdiction Agreement in which Quebec agreed to develop and implement its own plan to attain the objectives of the First Ministers' 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care, and to report progress to Quebecers using comparable indicators, mutually agreed to with other governments.
The accountability framework set out in SUFA would appear to be the linchpin of assuring the national character of any future health programs. Its implementation has thus far been a failure. While governments did agree to common indicators in 2000 and 2003, and did produce them in 2002 and 2004, they have been resistant to any attempts at comparability/benchmarking between jurisdictions and they failed to produce them at all in 2006. The Health Council of Canada lamented this lack of cooperation in its 2007 annual report.
Ensuring federal health financing is responsive to Canadians' health needs
The CMA believes that the federal government has a special responsibility for financing health care. The development of the health care financing system on a cooperative federal/provincial/territorial basis has many merits. It has resulted in the clear perception that the federal government has an obligation to ensure that reasonably comparable, high quality health care services are available, on a reasonably comparable basis, to all Canadians.
Through its financial contributions in support of the 2000, 2003 and 2004 health accords, the federal government has effectively restored the cuts made to federal health transfers during the early 1990s. However, health care which is now at 40 per cent of total provincial/territorial program spending continues to grow. The CMA must remain vigilant to ensure that the federal government continues to provide stable, predictable and adequate funding necessary to maintain and improve the standards of health care service across Canada. This federal funding should provide for a system that is effective, efficient and responsible.
With respect to the broader continuum of care, the future of Medicare is uncertain. While the federal government's role in funding health care remains tied to the Canada Health Act, Medicare must be modernized to reflect the current and future reality of the delivery of care. In 1975, just after Medicare was fully adopted, hospital and physician expenditures represented 60% of total health expenditures; as of 2006, this share has dropped by almost one-third to 43%. Over the past two decades, prescription drugs, as a proportion of total health spending, have doubled from 7% in 1986 to an estimated 14.2% in 2006. While a majority of Canadians have prescription drug coverage from either private or public plans, it is estimated that some 3.5 million are either uninsured or underinsured for prescription drug costs.
However, there is a clear consensus on the need for catastrophic prescription drug coverage and a growing concern about how to address the issue of very costly "orphan" drugs for rare diseases, and expensive treatments for common diseases such as breast cancer. In 2003, First Ministers committed to having catastrophic drug coverage in place by the end of 2005-2006, and while this is one of the elements of the National Pharmaceuticals Strategy, little collective action has taken place beyond further study. Similarly a 2003 commitment by First Ministers to first-dollar coverage for a basket of short-term acute home care, community mental health and end-of-life care services remains unmet.
The issue of long-term care of the elderly also looms on the horizon as the first cohort of the baby boom generation turns 65 in 2011. Indeed hospitals are already feeling the pinch of a lack of alternative level of care beds. International experience suggests that long-term care cannot nor should not be financed on the same pay-as-you-go basis as medical/hospital insurance.
Innovative approaches will be required to provide funding for the broader continuum of care (see CMA Policy Statement, It's Still About Access: Medicare Plus). We can expect to continue to see a mix of public and private plans and out-of-pocket payments (e.g., co-payments) and greater use of tax policy. This is the experience of most European and other industrialized countries. In Canada and internationally, the prospects for additional health programs funded on a first-dollar basis out of general taxation revenues are slim. In its 2007 budget, the federal government introduced a Registered Disability Savings Plan to help parents of children with a severe disability to ensure their children's future financial security by investing after-tax income on which the investment income will accumulate tax-free. Consideration should be given to implementing a similar contributions-based program for long-term care as is found in some other countries.
Another possibility would see the creation of a Canada Extended Health Services Financing Act that would provide a mechanism for sustainable federal funding to support provinces and territories providing necessary health services in the home and community setting. Such legislation would be based on a series of principles supported by Canadians to meet their health care needs.
FUNDING THE CONTINUUM OF CARE
The continuum of care may be defined as the array of health services that spans the range over the life course from primary care (including prevention and health promotion) through institutionally based secondary and tertiary care to community and home-based services that promote health maintenance, rehabilitation and palliation at the end of life. Given the ever-increasing diversity of service offerings and providers, and aging populations, governments worldwide face the ongoing challenge of what to fund for whom.
After a lengthy period of examination that began in the 1930s, Canada arrived at a social consensus on universal, first-dollar coverage provision of hospital (1957)1 and physician (1966)2 services. All provinces bought into "Medicare" by the early 1970s and the 1984 Canada Health Act (CHA)3 was the capstone of the national hospital and medical insurance program, adding the principle of accessibility, which effectively prohibited user charges for insured hospital and physician services.
Notwithstanding the more recent legislation, the foundation of Medicare was set in the health and health care reality of 1957. Hospital and medical services accounted for two-thirds of health spending (65%).4 Prescription drugs accounted for just 6% of spending, less than half of their 14.6% share in 2008. Life expectancy was almost a decade shorter than it is today, hence there was less concern about long-term care. The first knee replacement was not done until a decade later. The 1957 Hospital and Diagnostic Services Act specifically excluded tuberculosis hospitals, sanitaria and psychiatric hospitals as well as nursing homes/homes for the aged. These exclusions carried forward to the CHA.
By all accounts the CHA has taken on an iconic status, but at the same time it is agreed that it is an impediment to modernizing Medicare through its definitions and program criteria and how they are interpreted by the provinces and territories. The CHA narrowly defines insured health services as "hospital services, physician services and surgical dental services provided to insured persons." While the CHA recognizes "extended" health services such as home care and ambulatory health care services, these are not subject to the program criteria.
Over the years, the CHA has been extremely effective in preserving the publicly funded character of physician and hospital services. As of 2008, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has estimated that 98.4% of physician and 90.7% of hospital expenditures are publicly funded.5 The dividing line of the CHA may be seen in virtually all other categories of service. Fewer than one-half of prescription drugs (44.5%) and less than one-tenth (6.9%) of the services of other health professionals (e.g., dentistry and vision care) are publicly covered. Canada is unique among industrialized countries in its approach to Medicare. Countries with social insurance (Bismarck) funded systems tend to provide a similar total level of public expenditure over a wider range of services.
Over time, as health care has moved from institutions to the community, the CHA is diminishing with respect to the share of total health spending it covers. At the time the CHA was passed, physician and hospital services represented 57% of total health spending; this has declined to 41% as of 2008. It must be emphasized that there is significant public spending beyond CHA-covered services (in excess of 25% of total spending) for programs such as seniors' drug coverage and home care; however, those programs are not subject to the CHA's program criteria. In addition, they can be subject to arbitrary cutback. While a majority of the working age population and their families are covered by private health insurance, those with lower incomes are less likely to have such benefits. Since the late 1990s, notwithstanding the widely shared concern about the sustainability of Canada's Medicare program, several high profile studies have advocated for its expansion, starting with the 1997 Report of the National Forum on Health6 and latterly with the Kirby7 and Romanow8 reports in 2002, both of which strongly recommended home care and catastrophic drug coverage. There is also growing concern about the availability of so-called "orphan drugs" that treat rare diseases such as Fabry disease, and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient for a single year of treatment.
First Ministers have concluded three health accords in 20009, 200310 and 200411, each of which addresses expanding the boundaries of Medicare. To date there are a series of unfulfilled commitments from these accords, including a national basket of home care services and first-dollar coverage for home care and catastrophic drug coverage. In its 2007 report, the Health Council of Canada summarized progress on catastrophic drug costs as "disappointing."12
There is no appetite among governments in Canada to implement new universal programs with first-dollar coverage. In fact, recently governments have removed services that had previously been publicly insured, as evidenced by recent examples such as physiotherapy and chiropractic services in some jurisdictions.
The CMA puts forward the following principles for funding the continuum of care in a national context, recognizing that there will continue to be a mix of public-private funding.
* Canadians should take personal responsibility to plan ahead for the contingency that they may eventually require support with their activities of daily living;
* home care and long-term care should be delivered in appropriate and cost-effective settings that respect patient and family preferences;
* there should be quality and accreditation standards for both public and private service delivery;
* there should be uniform approaches to needs assessment for home care and long-term care;
* there should be a uniform means of distinguishing the medically necessary component of home care and long-term care from the accommodation component;
* there should be a means of mitigating against open-ended public coverage of pharmaceutical, home care and long-term care coverage;
* there should be recognition and financial support for informal care givers;
* there should be consideration of risk-pooling, risk adjustment and risk sharing1 between public and private funders/providers of pharmaceutical, home care and long-term care coverage;
* there should be a uniform approach to individual/household cost-sharing (e.g., copayments and deductibles); and
* provision should be made for pre-funding long-term care from public and private sources.
Prevention and Health Promotion
The continuum of care begins with prevention and this requires a strong public health foundation that includes the core elements of population health assessment, health surveillance, health promotion, disease and injury prevention and health protection.13 An investment in public health, including health promotion and disease prevention, is critical to the future health of Canadians.
One important component of effective prevention is immunization. The National Immunization Strategy was implemented in 2001 with the goal of reducing vaccine preventable diseases and improving vaccine coverage rates. The 2004 federal budget allocated $400 million to support this strategy and in 2007, $300 million was set aside in the federal budget for a Human Papillomavirus Immunization program. However, permanent funding should be allocated towards immunization programs for all illnesses that are preventable through vaccinations.
The federal government also has a role to play in establishing and promoting partnerships that will enhance prevention and promotion programming down to the local level.
The CMA recommends that:
the federal government continue funding of the national immunization strategy consistent with the original three-year funding program;
governments fund appropriate additions to the vaccination schedule, as new vaccines are developed, within the context of a national immunization strategy; and
the federal government establish a Public Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund ($350 million annually) to build partnerships between all levels of government to build capacity at the local level.
Prescription drugs are the fastest growing item in the health envelope. Over the past two decades, prescription drugs as a proportion of total health spending have doubled from 7% in 1986 to an estimated 14.6% in 2008, and they are now the second largest category of health expenditure. It is estimated that less than one-half (44.5%) of prescription drug costs were paid for publicly in 2008; just over one-third (37.1%) were paid by private insurers and almost one-fifth (18.4%) out-of-pocket.
The studies reported in 2002 by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Kirby) and by the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada (Romanow) have forged a consensus on the need for "catastrophic" pharmaceutical coverage, which may be defined as out-of-pocket prescription drug expenditures that exceed a certain threshold of household income.
In the Kirby proposal, in the case of public plans, personal prescription drug expenses for any family would be capped at 3% of total family income. The federal government would then pay 90% of prescription drug expenses in excess of $5,000. In the case of private plans, sponsors would have to agree to limit out-of-pocket costs to $1,500 per year, or 3% of family income (whichever is less). The federal government would then agree to pay 90% of drug costs in excess of $5,000 per year. Both public and private plans would be responsible for the difference between out-of-pocket and $5,000, and private plans would be encouraged to pool their risk. Kirby estimated that this plan would cost approximately $500 million per year. For his part, Romanow recommended a Catastrophic Drug Transfer through which the federal government would reimburse 50% of the costs of provincial and territorial drug insurance plans above a threshold of $1,500 per year. Romanow estimated that this would cost approximately $1 billion.
The National Pharmaceuticals Strategy (NPS) has continued to explore cost projections of catastrophic pharmaceutical coverage, leaning toward a variable percentage threshold linked to income but there has been no public reporting on progress since 2006.14 At their September 2008 meeting, provincial/territorial health ministers called for the federal government to be an equal partner (50/50) to support a national standard of pharmacare coverage so that prescription drug costs will not exceed 5% (on average) of the net income base of provincial/territorial populations. The total estimated cost of such a program for 2006 was estimated at $5.03 billion.15
Data from Statistics Canada indicate that there is wide variation in levels of household spending on prescription drugs in Canada. In 2006 almost one in twenty (3.8%) households in Canada spent more than 5% of net income on prescription drugs; there was almost a five-fold variation across the provinces, ranging from 2.2% in Ontario to 10.1% in Prince Edward Island.16
Canada does not have a nationally coordinated policy in the area of very costly drugs that are used to treat rare diseases. Moreover, there is also an issue of expensive drugs that may be used for common diseases (wide variation has been documented across provinces/territories).
Thus far the term "catastrophic" has been used by First Ministers and the NPS to describe their vision of national pharmaceutical coverage. As defined by the World Health Organization catastrophic expenditure reflects a level of out-of-pocket health expenditures so high that households have to cut down on necessities such as food and clothing and items related to children's education.17 From the CMA's perspective, this does not go far enough and what must be strived for is "comprehensive" coverage that covers the whole population and effectively pools risk across individuals and public and private plans in various jurisdictions.
The CMA recommends that:
governments, in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public, establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies;
such a program should include the following elements:
* a mandate for all Canadians to have either private or public coverage for prescription drugs;
* a uniform income-based ceiling (between public and private plans and across provinces/territories) on out-of-pocket expenditures on drug plan premiums and/or prescription drugs (e.g., 5% of after-tax income);
* FPT cost-sharing of prescription drug expenditures above a household income ceiling, subject to capping the total federal and/or provincial/territorial contributions either by adjusting the federal share of reimbursement or by scaling the household income ceiling or both;
* group insurance plans and administrators of employee benefit plans to pool risk above a threshold linked to group size; and,
* a continued strong role for private supplementary insurance plans and public drug plans on a level playing field (i.e., premiums and co-payments to cover plan costs);
the federal government establish a program for access to expensive drugs for rare diseases where those drugs have been demonstrated to be effective;
the federal government assess the options for risk pooling to cover the inclusion of expensive drugs in public and private drug plan formularies;
the federal government provide adequate financial compensation to the provincial and territorial governments that have developed, implemented and funded their own public prescription drug insurance plans;
governments provide comprehensive coverage of prescription drugs and immunization for all children in Canada; and
the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada conduct a detailed study of the socio-economic profile of Canadians who have out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses to assess barriers to access and to design strategies that could be built into a comprehensive prescription drug coverage program.
Home care began in Canada in the late 19th century as a charitable enterprise delivered by non-profit groups such as the Victorian Order of Nurses. In the expansionary period of the 1960s and 1970s, governments moved increasingly into this area. The New Brunswick Extra-Mural Program, arguably Canada's most successful/ambitious home care program, accepted its first clients in 1981. The Established Programs Financing Act of 1977 recognized home care as one of several extended health services and included a fund initially set at $20 per capita to cover such services. These extended services are also recognized in the CHA but are not subject to the five program criteria (principles). The 1997 Report of the National Forum on Health recommended that home care be added to Medicare (along with pharmacare). The $150 million Health Transition Fund supported several demonstration projects in the home care area. Both the Kirby and Romanow reports recommended expanded home care funding. In February 2003, First Ministers concluded an accord in which they committed to determine a basket of home care services by 30 Sept. 2003, covering short-term acute home care, community mental health and end-of-life care. To date this has not happened. The federal government implemented a Compassionate Care Benefit in 2003 to support family caregivers; however, this only applies to those who are in the paid labour force.18
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, there is almost a five-fold variation in the use of home care across provinces/territories.19 The extent of private expenditure on home care services is not presently known. However, Statistics Canada has reported that the proportion of Canadians living in the community who require assistance with their personal activities of eating, bathing and dressing who are receiving government-subsidized home care declined from 46% in 1994-1995 to 35% in 2003; the suggestion is that some of the burden may have shifted to home care agencies or family and friends.20 Statistics Canada has reported that in 2002, over 1.7 million adults aged 45 to 64 provided informal care to almost 2.3 million seniors with long-term disabilities or physical limitations.21
In light of the foregoing, the CMA believes that:
optimal management of the continuum of care requires that patients take an active part in developing their care and treatment plan, and in monitoring their health status;
the issue of the continuum of care must go beyond the question of financing and address questions related to the organization of the delivery of care and to the shared and joint responsibilities of individuals, communities and governments in matters of health care and promotion, prevention and rehabilitation;
support systems should be established to allow elderly and disabled Canadians to optimize their ability to live in the community;
strategies should be implemented to reduce wait times for accessing publicly funded home and community care services;
integrated service delivery systems should be created for home and community care services; and
any request for expanding the public plan coverage of health services, in particular for home care services and the cost of prescription drugs, must include a comprehensive analysis of the projected cost and potential sources of financing for this expansion.
The CMA recommends that:
governments adopt a policy framework and design principles for access to publicly funded medically necessary services in the home and community setting that can become the basis of a "Canada Extended Health Services Act;"
governments initiate a national dialogue on the Canada Health Act in relation to the continuum of care;
governments and provincial/territorial medical associations review physician remuneration for home and community-based services; and
governments undertake pilot studies to support informal caregivers and long-term care patients, including those that:
a) explore tax credits and/or direct compensation to compensate informal caregivers for their work,
b) expand relief programs for informal caregivers that provide guaranteed access to respite services in emergency situations,
c) expand income and asset testing for residents requiring assisted living and long-term care, and
d) promote information on advance directives and representation agreements for patients.
Mental Health Care
In 2000 mental illness was the fourth-ranking contributor to the total economic burden of illness in Canada.22 The exclusion of psychiatric hospitals from the CHA means that they are not subject to the five principles and were not included in the original basis of the federal transfer payments. While a major Senate Committee report has pointed out that the closure of psychiatric facilities means that this exclusion is no longer pertinent, the Committee also noted that many essential services for persons with mental illness such as psychological services or out-of-hospital drug therapies are not covered under provincial health insurance plans.23 Moreover, there remain 53 psychiatric hospitals in Canada.24
The CMA recommends that:
the federal government make the legislative and/or regulatory amendments necessary to ensure that psychiatric hospital services are subject to the five program criteria of the Canada Health Act;
in conjunction with legislative and/or regulatory changes, funding to the provinces/territories through the Canada Health Transfer be adjusted to provide for federal cost sharing in both one-time investment and ongoing cost of these additional insured services; and
Canadian physicians and their organizations advocate for parity of allocation of resources (relative to other diseases) toward the continuum of mental health care and research.
According to Statistics Canada's most recent population projections, the proportion of seniors in the population (65+) is expected to almost double from its present level of 13% to between 23% and 25% by 2031.25 The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has projected that the share of Gross Domestic Product devoted to long-term care will at least double from its 2005 level of 1.2% to 2.4% by 2050, and could almost triple to (3.2%) depending on the success of efforts to contain cost.26
The potential need for long-term care is not confined to the senior population. Based on the results of its 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, Statistics Canada estimated that there were 2 million adults aged 15-64 with disabilities, of whom 40% were severely disabled; in addition there were 202,000 children with disabilities, of whom 42% were severely disabled.27
A lack of appropriate long term care is imposing a bottleneck in the acute care system. The term Alternate Level of Care (ALC) is used to describe a situation when a patient is occupying a bed in a hospital and does not require the acute care provided in this setting. According to a 2009 CIHI report, in 2007-08, there were more than 74,000 ALC patients and more than 1.7 million ALC hospital days in Canada (excluding Manitoba and Quebec), accounting for 5% of hospitalizations and 14% of hospital days. In other words, every day almost 5,200 beds in acute care hospitals were occupied by ALC patients28.
This has significant consequences; emergency departments are being used as holding stations while admitted patients wait for a bed to become available, surgeries are being postponed, and the care for ALC patients may not be as good as it might be in an alternate site that is better equipped to suit their specific needs. Insufficient access to long term care at all ages is an obstacle to improving the health care system. Major investment is required in community and institutionally based care.
Most of the discussion in Canada since the mid-1990s has focused on the sustainability of the current Medicare program and the prospect for enhancements such as pharmacare. There has been little attention since the early 1980s on the future funding of long-term care. Internationally, in contrast, the United Kingdom has had a Royal Commission on long-term care, and Germany has moved to put in place a contributory social insurance fund.
A cursory assessment of the literature would suggest that there is a consensus that long-term care cannot/should not be financed on the same pay-as-you-go basis (i.e., current expenditures funded out of current contributions) as medical/hospital insurance programs.
The federal government has several options available to promote the pre-funding of long-term care:
Long-term care insurance: Policies are offered in Canada and are of fairly recent origin. There has been little take-up of such policies to date. At the end of 2005, about 52,700 Canadians were covered under long-term care insurance. One option could be to make long-term care insurance premiums deductible through a tax credit, similar to what Australia has done for private health insurance.
Tax-deferred savings: The Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) has been a very popular method for Canadians to save for retirement. As of 2007, an estimated 7 out of 10 (68%) of Canadians reported having an RRSP. However, in 2002, just 27% of all tax returns filed in Canada reported deductions for RRSP contributions. In 1998, Segal proposed a Registered Long-term Care Plan that would allow Canadians to save against the possibility of their need for a lengthy period of care. Another option to consider would be to add a provision to RRSPs similar to the Lifelong Learning Plan and the Home Buyer's Plan. This would be referred to as the Long-term Care Plan and would allow tax-free withdrawals from RRSPs to fund long-term care expenses for either the RRSP investor's own care or their family members' care.
Tax-prepaid saving: In Canada, the Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) is an example of a plan whereby after-tax earnings are invested and allowed to grow tax-free until they are distributed and included in the recipient's income. In the 2007 federal budget, the government announced the introduction of a Registered Disability Savings Plan. Parents and guardians will be able to contribute to a lifetime maximum of $200,000 and similar to the RESP program there will be a related program of disability grants and bonds, scaled to income. This approach could have more general applicability to long-term care. The 2008 federal budget has introduced a tax-free savings account (TFSA) that, starting in 2009, enables those 18 and over to contribute up to $5,000 per year in after-tax income to a TFSA, whose investment growth will not be taxed; however, funds can be withdrawn at any time for any purpose29.
Payroll deduction (Social Insurance): A compulsory payroll tax that would accumulate in a separate fund along the lines of the Canada Pension Plan has been recommended in provincial reports in Quebec and Alberta.
In summary, whatever vehicle might be chosen, governments need to impress upon younger Canadians the need to exercise personal responsibility in planning for their elder years, given continuing gains in longevity.
The CMA recommends that:
governments study the options for pre-funding long-term care, including private insurance, tax-deferred and tax-prepaid savings approaches, and contribution-based social insurance; and
the federal government review the variability in models of delivery of community and institutionally based long-term care across the provinces and territories as well as the standards against which they are regulated and accredited.
The Senate of Canada, and the Honourable Sharon Carstairs in particular, have provided leadership over the last decade in highlighting both the progress and the persistent variability across Canada in access to quality end-of-life care. In the latest (2005) of three reports issued since 1995, the Senate again calls for the development of and support for a national strategy for palliative and end-of-life care.30 In that report Still Not There it is noted that it is commonly estimated that no more than 15% of Canadians have access to hospice palliative care, and that for children, the figure drops further to just over 3%. To date, palliative care in Canada has primarily centred on services for those dying with cancer. However, cancer accounts for less than one-third (30%) of deaths in Canada. Diseases at the end of life such as dementia and multiple chronic conditions are expected to become much more prevalent in the years ahead. The demand for quality end-of-life care is certain to increase as the baby boom generation ages. By 2020 it is estimated that there will be 40% more deaths per year. While there has been a decreasing proportion of Canadians dying in hospital over the past decade, many more Canadians would prefer to have the option of hospice palliative care at the end of life than current capacity will permit. In its April 2009 report, the Special Senate Committee on Aging recommended a federally funded national partnership with provinces, territories and community organizations to promote integrated quality end-of-life care for all Canadians, the application of gold standards in palliative home care to veterans, First Nations and Inuit and federal inmates, and renewed research funding for palliative care.31
The CMA recommends that:
governments work toward a common end-of-life care strategy that will ensure all Canadians have equitable access to and adequate standards of quality end-of-life care.
1 Risk pooling is defined by the World Health Organization as the practice of bringing several risks together for insurance purposes in order to balance the consequences of the realization of such individual risk. Risk adjustment and risk sharing are means of adjusting or compensating for risk differentials between risk pools.
1 Canada. Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act. Statutes of Canada 1956-57 Chap 28. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1957.
2 Canada. Medical Care Act 1966-67, C. 64, 5.1. Revised Statutes of Canada 1970 Volume V. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1970.
3 Canada. Canada Health Act. Chapter C - 6. Ottawa, 1984.
4 Hall, E. Royal Commission on Health Services, Volume 1. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1964.
5 Canadian Institute for Health Information. National Health Expenditure Trends 1975-2008. Ottawa, 2008.
6 National Forum on Health. Canada Health Action: Building on the legacy - Volume 1 - the final report. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services, 1997.
7 Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. The health of Canadians - the federal role Volume six: recommendations for reform. Ottawa, 2002.
8 Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. Building values: the future of health care in Canada. Ottawa, 2002.
9 Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. First Ministers' meeting communiqué on health. September 11, 2000. http://www.scics.gc.ca/cinfo00/800038004_e.html. Accessed 09/24/09.
10 Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. 2003 First Ministers' Accord on Health Care Renewal. February 5, 2003. http://www.scics.gc.ca/pdf/800039004_e.pdf. Accessed 08/05/08.
11 Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. A 10-Year plan to strengthen health care. September 16, 2004. http://www.scics.gc.ca/cinfo04/800042005_e.pdf. Accessed 08/05/08.
12 Health Council of Canada. Health care renewal in Canada: Measuring up? Toronto, 2007.
13 Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The future of public health in Canada: Developing a public health system for the 21st century. Ottawa, 2003.
14 Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministerial Task Force on the National Pharmaceuticals Strategy. National Pharmaceuticals Strategy Progress Report. June 2006. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/alt_formats/hpb-dgps/pdf/pubs/2006-nps-snpp/2006-nps-snpp-eng.pdf. Accessed 08/05/08.
15 Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. Backgrounder: National Pharmaceutical Strategy Decision Points. September 24, 2009. http://www.scics.gc.ca/cinfo08/860556005_e.html. Accessed 09/24/09.
16 Statistics Canada. Survey of Household Spending 2006. Detailed table 2, 62FPY0032XDB.
17 Xu K, Evans D, Carrin G, Aguilar-Riviera A. Designing health financing systems to reduce catastrophic health expenditure. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2005.
18 Service Canada. Employment insurance (EI) compassionate care benefits. http://184.108.40.206/eng/ei/types/compassionate_care.shtml. Accessed 09/24/09.
19 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Public sector expenditures and utilization of home care services in Canada: exploring the data. Ottawa, 2007.
20 Wilkins K. Government-subsidized home care. Health Reports 2006;17(4):39-42.
21 Pyper W. Balancing career and care. Perspectives on labour and income 2006;18(4): 5-15.
22 Public Health Agency of Canada. Table 2 Summary - Economic burden of illness in Canada by diagnostic category, 2000. Ottawa, 2000.
23 Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. Out of the shadows at last: transforming mental health, mental illness and addiction services in Canada. Ottawa, 2006.
24 Canadian Healthcare Association. September 2009.
25 Statistics Canada. Population projections. The Daily, Thursday, December 15, 2005.
26 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Projecting OECD health and long-term care expenditures. What are the main drivers? Paris, 2006.
27 Statistics Canada. Participation and Activity Limitation Survey 2006: Tables. Catalogue no. 89-628-XlE-No. 003. Ottawa: Minister of Industry, 2007.
28 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Alternate level of care in Canada. Ottawa, 2009.
29 Canada Revenue Agency. Tax-free savings account (TFSA). http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pub/tg/rc4466/rc4466-e.html#P44_1114. Accessed 09/24/09.
30 Carstairs S. Still not there. Quality end-of-life care: a status report. http://sen.parl.gc.ca/scarstairs/PalliativeCare/Still%20Not%20There%20June%202005.pdf. Accessed 09/24/09.
31 Special Senate Committee on Aging. Final report: Canada's aging population: Seizing the opportunity. Apr 2009.
The future of medicine
In 1997 the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) embarked on a study of the future of medicine. Two premises guided this activity: (1) the pace of change in the practice of medicine that physicians experienced in the last quarter of the 20th century is bound to increase in the 21st century; and (2) it is essential that the medical profession position itself to influence future developments in medical practice.
In order to prepare the profession to anticipate and meet the challenges of the future, the CMA is engaged in a medium- to long-term (5–20 years) planning exercise. This policy statement summarizes the results of the first part of this exercise: working definitions of health, health care and medicine; a vision for the future of the medical profession; and the implications of this vision for the roles of physicians. This work was conducted by an expert project advisory group, which developed background papers on these topics and prepared this statement for approval by the CMA Board of Directors.
Health: is a state of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. It is characterized in part by an absence of illness (a subjective experience) and disease (a pathological abnormality) that enables one to pursue major life goals and to function in personal, social and work contexts.
Health care: is any activity that has as its primary objective the improvement, maintenance or support of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, as characterized by the absence of illness and disease.
Medicine: is the art and science of healing. It is based on a body of knowledge, skills and practices concerned with the health and pathology of individuals and populations. The practice of medicine encompasses those health care activities that are performed by or under the direction of physicians in the service of patients, including health promotion, disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, palliation, education and research.
A vision for the future of the medical profession
Medicine will continue to be a healing profession dedicated to serving humanity. Its cornerstone will continue to be the relationship of trust between the patient and the
physician. It will uphold with integrity the values of respect for persons, compassion, beneficence and justice. It will strive for excellence and incorporate progress in its art and science. It will maintain high standards of ethics, clinical practice, education and research in order to serve patients. It will encourage the development of healthy communities and of practices and policies that promote the well-being of the public. It will demonstrate its capacity for societal responsibility through self-regulation and accountability. It will actively participate in decision-making regarding health and health care policy. It will guard against forces and events that may compromise its primary commitment to the well-being of patients.
The roles of physicians in the future1
Although the vision and values of medicine are enduring and will remain stable, the practice environment of physicians will change as the medical profession responds to health system and societal influences. This in turn will have implications for the roles of physicians.
The traditional role of physicians has been medical expert and healer. This has involved diagnosing and treating disease and other forms of illness, comforting those who cannot be cured and preventing illness through patient counselling and public-health measures. While this role will remain at the core of medical practice, the evolving context of health care requires physicians to assume additional roles to support their primary role.
The CMA proposes the following roles as essential to the future practice of medicine (cf. Fig. 1 for their interrelationship). Although no physician will function in all roles simultaneously, they should all have the fundamental competencies to participate in each of these roles.
-Medical expert and healer: Physicians have always been recognized for their role as medical expert and healer; it is the defining nature of their practice and derives from the broad knowledge base of medicine and its application through a combination of art and science. This is the foundation for continued physician leadership in the provision of medical and health care in the future.
-Professional: There must be renewed efforts to reaffirm the principles of the medical profession, including upholding its unique body of knowledge and skills; maintenance of high standards of practice; and commitment to the underlying values of caring, service and compassion. The medical profession of the future must continue to develop standards of care with ongoing opportunities for continued assessment of competency in order to remain a credible, self-regulated discipline worthy of public respect and trust.
-Communicator: Increasing emphasis will be placed upon the ability to gather and communicate medical information in a compassionate and caring fashion, to enter into a partnership with patients when organizing care plans and to provide important information through counselling and the promotion of health. As always, the patient–physician relationship will remain paramount, with its essential features of compassion, confidentiality, honesty and respect.
-Scholar: Scholarship involves the creation of new knowledge (research), its uniform application (clinical practice) and its transfer to others (education). It is this strong association with the science of medicine and physicians’ willingness to embrace the scholarship of their practice that is closely linked to their roles of
medical experts and professionals.
-Collaborator: Health care services will increasingly be provided by interdisciplinary teams throughout the continuum of care from health promotion activities to the management of acute life-threatening disorders to the delivery of palliative care. In the role of collaborator, physicians recognize the essential functions of other health care workers and respect unique provider contributions in patient-centred health care delivery.
-Advocate: As the health sector becomes increasingly complex and interdependent with other sectors of society, it will be essential for physicians to play a greater role as health advocates. This may pertain to advocacy for individual and family health promotion in the practice environment; it may also relate to the promotion of improved health at the broader community level.
-Manager: In order to provide quality care, physicians of the future must be effective resource managers at the individual practice level, at the health care facility level and as part of the wider health care system.
In order to fulfil these roles and participate in communities as integral members of society, physicians need to lead balanced lives.
Physicians may sometimes experience conflicts among these roles. The CMA Code of Ethics specifies the basic principles of professional ethics for dealing with such conflicts.
The CMA has developed this vision for the future of medicine and the future roles of physicians to assist individual physicians and medical organizations to anticipate and prepare for the challenges of the next 20 years. The vision provides the profession with criteria for evaluating proposed changes in how medicine is practised and reaffirms the core values of medicine that must be upheld in whatever system emerges.
The CMA invites other organizations, nonmedical as well as medical, to comment on the contents of this statement and its implications for health and health care. The CMA welcomes opportunities to dialogue with others on how the health care system can be improved for the benefit of future patients and society in general.
1The section is indebted to the work of the Educating Future Physicians for Ontario (EFPO) project supported by the Associated Medical Services group, the Ontario faculties of medicine and the Ontario Ministry of Health, and the Canadian Medical Education Directions for Specialists 2000 (CanMEDs 2000) project of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
Guidelines for Assessing Health Care System Performance
In recent years, Canadians have expressed a loss of confidence in the ability of the health care system to meet their needs. At the same time, governments, health professionals, patients and the public are demanding greater accountability from the system and those responsible for how it currently functions. Attempts to respond to these concerns have highlighted the fact that the development and evolution of the system have not been based on assessment of performance or outcome measurements.
Through proper assessment, the capacity and performance of the health care system can be evaluated to identify opportunities for improvements in quality of care, health outcomes or both. These improvements should be based on sound decision-making using the best available information. The following guidelines have been created by the CMA in consultation with a broad group of stakeholders to serve as guiding principles for those involved in the establishment and ongoing development of health care system performance processes.
1) Recognizing that the ultimate goal of the health care system is to improve health, assessment of the system's performance and capacity must address structure, process and outcomes in the following domains: clinical services; governance; management; finances; human, intellectual and physical capital; and stakeholder perception and satisfaction.
2) Assessment of health care system performance must be comprehensive throughout the continuum of care at all levels(f1) and involving all activities related to providing care.
3) The issues of privacy and confidentiality of patient information must be addressed at all levels as outlined in the Principles for the Protection of Patients' Personal Health Information.
4) Assessment of health care system performance must enhance accountability (f2) among administrators, patients, payers, providers and the public.
5) Assessing the performance of the health care system requires information that is reliable, valid, complete, comprehensive and timely. The information used for the purpose of assessing health care system performance must be continually evaluated and audited in a transparent process.
6) An independent group (f3) (f4) working with an advisory body (or bodies) composed of representative stakeholders should be responsible for overseeing the definition, collection and custodianship of data and the interpretation and dissemination of health care system performance assessment.
7) The advisory body (or bodies) must rely on the best available evidence, which may include or be limited to expert opinion in the areas of data definition and collection, privacy, analysis and interpretation (f5) in assessment of health care system performance.
8) In the assessment of health care system performance, and in particular with respect to the interpretation of information, the advisory body (or bodies) should place heavy emphasis on the viewpoints of relevant peer groups.
9) The processes of data collection, analysis, interpretation and communication to administrators, patients, payers, providers and the public should be systematic and ongoing.
10) The process of assessing health care system performance should be evaluated on an ongoing basis to determine whether it is achieving the desired effects on quality of care and health outcomes.
1-Provider, institutional, regional, provincial and national levels.
2-Accountability entails the procedures and processes by which one party justifies and takes responsibility for its activities (Emanuel EJ, Emanuel LL. What is accountability in health care? Ann Intern Med 1996;124:229).
3-Without ownership or equity in the group being evaluated and without financial incentives related to the content of the evaluation.
4-Chosen through a transparent process.
5-Must include consideration of relevant legislation and regulations.
In 2010, 14% of Canada's population was 65 or older. With the aging of the baby boom generation, this proportion is estimated to rise to about 25% in 2036 (1). The aging of Canada's population is expected to have a major impact on the country's economy, society and health care system over the next 25 to 30 years.
Though age does not automatically mean ill health or disability, the risk of both does increase as people age. In 2006, 33% of Canadians aged 65 or older had a disability; the proportion climbed to 44% among people aged 75 or older (2). Nearly three-quarters of Canadians over 65 have at least one chronic health condition (3). Because of increasing rates of disability and chronic disease, the demand for health services is expected to increase as Canada's population ages. Currently Canadians over 65 consume roughly 44% of provincial and territorial health care budgets (4), and governments are concerned about the health care system's capacity to provide quality services in future.
The CMA believes that to provide optimal care and support for Canada's aging population, while taking care to minimize pressure on the health-care system as much as possible, governments at all levels should invest in:
* programs and supports to promote healthy aging;
* a comprehensive continuum of health services to provide optimal care and support to older Canadians; and
* an environment and society that is "age friendly."
This policy describes specific actions that could be taken to further these three goals. Its recommendations complement those made in other CMA policies, including those on "Funding the Continuum of Care" (2009), Optimal Prescribing (2010) and Medication Use and Seniors (Update 2011).
2) Providing Optimal Health and Health Care for Older Persons:
This section discusses in detail the three general areas in which the CMA believes governments should invest:
a) Promotion of "Healthy Aging"
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) defines healthy aging as "the process of optimizing opportunities for physical, social and mental health to enable seniors to take an active part in society without discrimination and to enjoy independence and quality of life." It is believed that initiatives to promote healthy aging, and enable older Canadians to maintain their health, will help lower health-care costs by reducing the overall burden of disability and chronic disease. Such initiatives could focus on:
Physical activity. Being physically active is considered the most important step that older Canadians can take toward improving health, even if they do not start being active until later in life. However in 2008, 57% of seniors reported being physically inactive (5).
Injury prevention. Falls are the primary cause of injury among older Canadians; they account for 40% of admissions to nursing homes, 62% of injury-related hospitalizations, and almost 90% of hip fractures (6). The causes of falls are complex, and both physiology (e.g. effect of illness) and environment (e.g. poorly maintained walkways) can contribute. Most falls can be prevented through a mix of interventions: for the person (such as strength and balance training); and for the person's environment, (such as grab bars and railings, slip-proof floor surfaces, walkways that are cleared of snow and ice in winter.)
Nutrition. In 2008, 28% of men and 31% of women over 65 were obese (BMI = 30); this is higher than the population average. Underweight is also a problem among seniors, 17% of whom report a BMI of 20 or less (7). The reasons for nutrition problems among older Canadians are complex; they may be related to insufficient income to purchase healthy foods, or to disabilities that make shopping or preparing meals difficult.
Mental health. An estimated 10-15% of seniors report depression, and the rate is higher among those with concomitant physical illness, or those living in long-term care facilities (8). Depression among older people may be under-recognized and under-treated, since it might be dismissed as a normal consequence of aging. Poor mental health is often associated with social isolation, a common problem among seniors.
Governments and National Associations
The CMA recommends that:
1. Governments at all levels support programs to promote physical activity, nutrition, injury prevention and mental health among older Canadians.
Health Service Delivery
The CMA recommends that:
2. Older Canadians have access to high-quality, well-funded programs and supports to help them achieve and maintain physical fitness and optimal nutrition.
3. Older Canadians have access to high-quality, well-funded programs aimed at determining the causes and reducing the risk of falls.
4. Older Canadians have access to high-quality, well-funded programs to promote mental health and well-being and reduce social isolation.
Physicians and Patients
The CMA recommends that:
5. Older Canadians be encouraged to follow current guidelines for healthy living, such as the 2012 Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for adults 65 and over.
6. Physicians and other health care providers be encouraged to counsel older patients about the importance of maintaining a healthy and balanced life style.
7. All stakeholders assist in developing health literacy tools and resources to support older Canadians and their families in maintaining health.
b) A Comprehensive Continuum of Health Services
Though, as previously mentioned, age does not automatically mean ill health, utilization of health services does increase with increasing age. Patients over 65 have more family physician visits, more hospital admissions and longer hospital stays than younger Canadians (the overall length of stay in acute inpatient care is about 1.5 times that of non-senior adults) (9).
In addition, seniors take more prescription drugs per person than younger adults; 62% of seniors on public drug programs use five or more drug classes, and nearly 30% of those 85 and older have claims for 10 or more prescription drugs (10). Heavy medication use by people over 65 has a number of consequences:
* The risk of adverse drug reactions is several-fold higher for seniors than for younger patients.
* Medication regimes, particularly for those taking several drugs a day on different dosage schedules, can be confusing and lead to errors or non-adherence.
* Patients may receive prescriptions from multiple providers who, if they have not been communicating with each other, may not know what other medications have been prescribed. This increases the risk of harmful drug interactions and medication errors.
For seniors who have multiple chronic diseases or disabilities, care needs can be complex and vary greatly from one person to another. This could mean that a number of different physicians, and other 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 clean house and make sure the patient is eating properly, and a social worker to make sure his or her income is sufficient to cover health care and other needs.
Complex care needs demand a flexible and responsive health care system. The CMA believes that quality health care for older Canadians should be delivered on a continuum from community based health care, (e.g. primary health care, chronic disease management programs), to home care (e.g. visiting health care workers to give baths and footcare), to long-term care and palliative care. Ideally, this continuum should be managed so that the patient can remain at home, out of emergency departments, hospitals and long term care unless appropriate, can easily access the level of care he or she needs, and can make a smooth transition from one level of care to another when needed.
Care managers are an essential part of this continuum, working with caregivers and the patient to identify the most appropriate form of care from a menu of alternatives. Care managers can co-ordinate the services of the various health professionals who deliver care to a given patient, and facilitate communication among them so that all work to a common care plan. A family physician who has established a long-standing professional relationship with the patient and is familiar with his or her condition, needs and preference is ideally placed to serve as manager of a patient's overall care, supported by geriatric and other specialists as appropriate.
Not all of the patient's caregivers may be health professionals; more than 75% of the care of older Canadians is delivered by unpaid informal caregivers, usually relatives. The role of the family caregiver can be demanding financially, physically and emotionally. Though governments have instituted tax credits and other forms of support for caregivers, more may be required. The Special Senate Committee on Aging has called for a National Caregiving Strategy to help put in place the supports that caregivers need. (11)
Finally, many of the services required by seniors, in particular home care and long-term care, are not covered by the Canada Health Act. Funding of these services varies widely from province to province. Long-term care beds are in short supply; as a result more than 5,000 hospital beds are occupied by patients waiting for long-term care placement (12), making them unavailable for those with acute-care needs. CMA's Health Care Transformation Framework (2010) makes a number of recommendations aimed at improving access to continuing care in Canada.
Governments and National Associations
The CMA recommends that:
8. Governments and other stakeholders work together to develop and implement models of integrated, interdisciplinary health service delivery for older Canadians.
9. Governments continue efforts to ensure that older Canadians have access to a family physician, supported by specialized geriatric services as appropriate.
10. Governments and other stakeholders work together to develop and implement a National Caregiver Strategy, and expand the support programs currently offered to informal caregivers.
11. All stakeholders work together to develop and implement a national dementia strategy.
12. Governments and other stakeholders work together to develop and implement a pan-Canadian pharmaceutical strategy that addresses both comprehensive coverage of essential medicines for all Canadians, and programs to encourage optimal prescribing and drug therapy.
13. Governments work with the health and social services sector, and with private insurers, to develop a framework for the funding and delivery of accessible and sustainable home care and long-term care services.
The CMA recommends that:
14. Medical schools enhance the provision, in undergraduate education and in residency training for all physicians, of programs addressing the clinical needs of older patients.
15. Medical students and residents be exposed to specialty programs in geriatric medicine and other disciplines that address the clinical needs of older patients.
16. Continuing education programs on care for older patients be developed and provided to physicians of all specialties, and to other health care providers, on a continuous basis.
Health System Planners
The CMA recommends that:
17. Health systems promote collaboration and communication among health care providers, through means such as:
a. Interdisciplinary primary health care practice settings, that bring a variety of physicians and other health professionals and their expertise into a seamless network;
b. Widespread use of the electronic health record; and
c. A smooth process for referral between providers.
18. All stakeholders work toward integration of health care along the continuum by addressing the barriers that separate:
a. acute care from the community;
b. health services from social services; and
c. provincially-funded health care services such as physicians and hospitals, from services funded through other sources, such as pharmacare, home care and long term care.
19. Programs be developed and implemented that promote optimal prescribing and medication management for seniors.
20. Research be conducted on a continuous basis to identify best practices in the care of seniors, and monitor the impact of various interventions on health outcomes and health care costs.
Physicians in Practice
The CMA recommends that:
21. Continuing education, clinical practice guidelines and decision support tools be developed and disseminated on a continuous basis, to help physicians keep abreast of best practices in elder care.
c) An Age-Friendly Environment:
One of the primary goals of seniors' policy in Canada is to promote the independence of older Canadians in their own homes and communities, avoiding costly institutionalization for as long as feasible. To help older Canadians successfully maintain their independence, it is important that governments and society ensure that the social determinants of health care addressed when developing policy that affects them. This includes assuring that the following supports are available to older Canadians:
* Adequate Income: Poverty among seniors dropped sharply in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2008, 6% of Canada's seniors were living in low income, as opposed to nearly 30% in 1978. However, there has been a slight increase in poverty levels since 2007, and it may be necessary to guard against an upward trend in future (13). Raising the minimum age for collecting Old Age Security, as has been proposed, may weigh heavily on seniors with lower incomes, and make prescription drugs, dental care and other needed health services unaffordable.
* Employment Opportunities: it has been recommended that seniors be encouraged to work beyond age 65 as a means of minimizing a future drain on pension plans (14). Many older Canadians who have not contributed to employee pension plans may be dependent on employment income for survival. However, employment may be difficult to find if workplaces are unwilling to hire older workers.
* Housing. Nearly all of Canada's seniors live in their own homes; fewer than 10% live in long-term care facilities. Options are available that permit older Canadians to live independently even with disabilities and health care needs, such as:
o Home support for services such as shopping and home maintenance; and
o Assisted-living facilities that provide both independent living quarters and support services such as nursing assistance, and cafeterias if desired.
* An Age-friendly built environment. To enable seniors to live independently, the World Health Organization's "Age-Friendly Communities" initiative recommends that their needs be taken into consideration by those who design and build communities. For example, buildings could be designed with entrance ramps and elevators; sidewalks could have sloping curbs for walkers and wheelchairs; and frequent, accessible public transportation could be provided in neighbourhoods where a large concentration of seniors live.
* Protection from Abuse. Elder abuse can take many forms: physical, psychological, financial, or neglect. Often the abuser is a family member, friend, or other person in a position of trust. Researchers estimate that 4 to 10% of Canadian seniors experience abuse or neglect, but that only a small portion of this is reported (15). CMA supports awareness programs to bring the attention of elder abuse to the public, as well as programs to intervene with seniors who are abused, and with their abusers.
* A Discrimination-Free society. Efforts to boost income and employment security, health care standards and community support for older Canadians are hampered if the pervasive public attitude is that seniors are second-class citizens. An age-friendly society respects the experience, knowledge and capabilities of its older members, and accords them the same worth and dignity as it does other citizens.
Governments and National Associations
The CMA recommends that:
22. Governments provide older Canadians with access to adequate income support.
23. Governments devote a portion of national infrastructure funding to providing an adequate supply of accessible and affordable housing for seniors.
24. Older Canadians have access to opportunities for meaningful employment if they desire.
25. Communities take the needs and potential limitations of older Canadians into account when designing buildings, walkways, transportation systems and other aspects of the built environment.
Health System Planners
The CMA recommends that:
26. The health system offer a range of high-quality, well-funded home care and social support services to enable older Canadians to remain independent in the community for as long as possible.
27. Physicians receive advice and education on optimal community supports and resources to keep seniors independent and/or at home.
Physicians in Practice
The CMA recommends that:
28. Training and programs be provided to physicians and other care providers to enable them to identify elder abuse, and to intervene with abused people and their abusers.
Aging is not a disease, but an integral part of the human condition. To maximize the health and well-being of older Canadians, and ensure their continued functionality and independence for as long as possible, CMA believes that the health care system, governments and society should work with older Canadians to promote healthy aging, provide quality patient-centered health care and support services, and build communities that value Canadians of all ages.
1 Public health Agency of Canada. "Growing Older: Adding Life to Years. Annual report on the state of public health in Canada, 2010." Accessed at http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cphorsphc-respcacsp/2010/fr-rc/index-eng.php
2 Statistics Canada: A Portrait of Seniors in Canada (2008). Accessed at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-519-x/89-519-x2006001-eng.htm
3 Canadian Institute for Health Information. "Seniors and the health care system: What is the impact of multiple chronic conditions?" (January 2011.) Accessed at https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/air-chronic_disease_aib_en.pdf
4 Canadian Institute for Health Information. National Health Expenditure Trends, 1975 to 2010. Accessed at http://www.cihi.ca/cihi-ext-portal/internet/en/document/spending+and+health+workforce/spending/release_28oct10
5 PHAC 2010
6 PHAC 2010
7 PHAC 2010
8 Mood Disorders Society of Canada. "Depression in Elderly" (Fact sheet). Accessed at http://www.mooddisorderscanada.ca/documents/Consumer%20and%20Family%20Support/Depression%20in%20Elderly%20edited%20Dec16%202010.pdf
9 Canadian institute for Health Information. Health Care in Canada, 2011: A Focus on Seniors and Aging. Accessed at https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/HCIC_2011_seniors_report_en.pdf
10 CIHI 2011
11 Special Senate Committee on Aging. "Canada's Aging Population: Seizing the Opportunity." (April 2009). Accessed at http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/402/agei/rep/AgingFinalReport-e.pdf
12 CIHI 2009
13 PHAC 2010
14 Department of Finance Canada. Economic and fiscal implications of Canada's Aging Population (October 2012). Accessed at http://www.fin.gc.ca/pub/eficap-rebvpc/report-rapport-eng.asp#Toc01.
15 PHAC 2010
Canada's prized Medicare system is facing serious challenges on two key fronts: in meeting the legitimate health care needs of Canadians and in being affordable for the public purse. The founding principles of Medicare are not being met today either in letter or in spirit. Canadians are not receiving the value they deserve from the health care system. In both 2008 and 2009, the Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index ranked Canada 30th of 30 countries (the U.S. was not included in the sample) in terms of value for money spent on health care. Canadians deserve better.
Canada cannot continue on this path. The system needs to be massively transformed, a task that demands political courage and leadership, flexibility from within the health care professions and far-sightedness on the part of the public. It is a lot to demand, but nothing less than one of Canada's most cherished national institutions is at stake. Unwillingness to confront the challenges is not an option.
With this report, "Health Care Transformation in Canada: Change that Works, Care That Lasts" the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) declares its readiness to take a leadership position in confronting the hard choices required to make health care work better for Canadians. The focus of reform must better serve the patient. The system must adjust to changing needs for care and do so without crowding out other societal needs; many of them determinants of health themselves, such as education and sanitation, and the challenges posed by Canada's geographic, cultural, economic and emerging demographic realities.
This report sets out an ambitious but realizable roadmap to ready the system for the future. Its triple aim is to improve the health of the population at large, to improve the health care experiences of patients, and to improve the value for money spent on health and health care. The CMA seeks to spark a spirited discussion among physicians, other health care providers, governments and the public at large so that an urgent effort can be undertaken to put an improved system on a path to sustainability by the time the federal-provincial/territorial Health Accord expires on March 31, 2014. By so doing, a renewed Health Accord will be enabled to maximize value for patients and sustain a strong health care system for future generations.
This report is divided into three parts: The Problem; Our Vision; and The Framework for Transformation. It is in this last section that the CMA puts forth a five-pillar transformational plan, including a Charter for Patient-Centred Care, for securing Canada's public health care future. These policy directions have been influenced by our consultations with patients, patient advocacy groups and the public. These initiatives are necessary to support the important work already underway in illness prevention and health promotion, in enhancing capabilities for diagnosis and treatment, and in monitoring system performance. They also represent directions we must take towards preparing for the needs of future generations of Canadians.
The CMA, our partner provincial/territorial medical associations and the physicians of Canada are committed to the changes that will allow us to fulfill our objective to provide patients with optimal care within an effective, accountable and sustainable system today and for generations to come.
Medicare has enjoyed the resounding support of Canadians for nearly half a century. But new times bring new challenges to the health care system and so it has been forced from time to time to adapt and evolve. This document is predicated on the belief of the CMA that new demands for adaptation must be addressed starting now, and in a manner consistent with the spirit and principles that have guided Medicare from the beginning.
This report is divided into three Parts. The first lays out the underlying problem confronting the system; the second outlines a vision for Canada's health system by modernizing the guiding principles of Medicare, and the third provides the CMA's prescription for improving the system within and beyond the five original principles that are set out in the Canada Health Act (universality, accessibility, comprehensiveness, portability and public administration).
Following the main report, Appendix A addresses the issue of health care funding and sustainability. This is meant to inform readers regarding the complexities inherent in the challenge of sustaining health care provision and funding for current and future populations.
Part 1: The Problem
Canada's health care system is valued by its citizens. At the same time, it is increasingly recognized that the system is inadequate to meet 21st Century needs and is in urgent need of reform. Canadians wait too long for care. Care providers feel overworked and discouraged. There are insufficient mechanisms to monitor system performance. Technical support needs modernizing.
Closer examination of how the five Medicare principles are being met reveals a number of concerns. While there is universal coverage for a narrow range of medically-necessary services, access to other essential health care services is inconsistent, both within and across jurisdictions. Exceedingly long waits for necessary medical care is prevalent. Efficiencies in the management of our health care system must also be found as Canada has recently been ranked last out of 30 countries in terms of value for money spent.
Part 2: Our Vision
There are numerous steps required to transform Canada's health care system so that it becomes highly effective and meets the health needs of Canadians. A first step is to re-examine the five principles of the Canada Health Act and modernize them as they are no longer sufficient to meet current and evolving needs.
All Canadians must have timely access to an appropriate array of medically-necessary services across the full continuum of care, independent of their ability to pay. All health care must be patient-centred. Care must be delivered effectively and must be well-coordinated among all care providers. The health care system must be properly resourced to deliver care in a sustainable way that can accommodate our ever-changing health care needs.
Part 3: The Framework for Transformation
The CMA's Health Care Transformation Plan has three core goals: improving population health, improving the patient experience of health care, and improving the value for money spent on health care. The CMA has created a Framework for Transformation listing the actions needed for change - organized under five pillars:
1. Building a culture of patient-centred care
* Creation of a Charter for Patient-centred Care
2. Incentives for enhancing access and improving quality of care
* Changing incentives to enhance timely access
* Changing incentives to support quality care
3. Enhancing patient access along the continuum of care
* Universal access to prescription drugs
* Continuing care outside acute care facilities
4. Helping providers help patients
* Ensuring Canada has an adequate supply of health human resources
* More effective adoption of health information technologies
5. Building accountability/responsibility at all levels
* Need for system accountability
* Need for system stewardship
The CMA recognizes that none of these directions, taken separately, will transform our health care system. Nor do they represent an exhaustive list of steps, as there are many other directions that can be taken to support our vision. This framework does, however, contain the necessary directions toward the more efficient, high-functioning, patient-focused system that Canadians deserve.
Summary of CMA Recommended Directions
Implementation of these recommendations will require the collaboration of all levels of government and medical and other health organizations.
1. Gain government and public support for the CMA's Charter for Patient-Centred Care.
2. Implement partial activity-based funding for hospitals, whereby facilities are funded based on the number of patients they treat and the types of illnesses they have, to improve timely access to facility-based care.
3. Implement appropriate pay-for-performance systems to encourage quality of care at both the clinician and facility level.
4. Establish an approach to comprehensive prescription drug coverage to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies.
5. Begin construction immediately on additional long-term care facilities.
6. Create national standards, with input from both federal and provincial/territorial governments, for continuing care provision in terms of eligibility criteria, care delivery and accommodation expenses.
7. Develop options to facilitate pre-funding long-term care needs.
8. Initiate a national dialogue on the Canada Health Act in relation to the continuum of care.
9. Explore ways to support informal caregivers and long-term care patients.
10. Develop a long-term health human resources plan through a national body using the best available evidence to support its deliberations. Within this plan:
a) Increase medical school and residency training positions.
b) Invest in recruitment and retention strategies for physicians, nurses and other health care workers.
c) Ease the process of integration into our health care workforce for international medical graduates and Canadian physicians returning from abroad.
d) Introduce new providers such as physician assistants to the health care workforce and enhance collaborative, team-based care where appropriate.
11. Adopt the CMA's five-year plan to set out clear targets for accelerating the adoption of Health Information Technology (HIT) in Canada.
12. Accelerate the introduction of e-prescribing in Canada to make it the main method of prescribing by 2012.
13. Require public reporting on the performance of the system, including outcomes.
14. Establish an arm's-length mechanism to monitor the financing of health care programs at the federal and provincial/territorial levels.
PART 1: THE PROBLEM
Summary: Canada's health care system is valued by its citizens. However, not only is our Medicare system failing to meet the five principles - universality, accessibility, portability, comprehensiveness and public administration - originally laid out in the 1984 Canada Heath Act, but those five principles, while still relevant, need to be expanded in scope to serve the current and future health needs of Canadians.
Canadians believe that the relief of suffering and the promotion of health and human dignity are vitally important - for philosophical as well as pragmatic reasons. Simply stated, there is a broad recognition that health is a valued "good" allowing all Canadians to flourish as individuals and groups. Notwithstanding this fundamental belief, neither of the imperatives of our health care system - optimizing function and the compassionate relief of suffering and promotion of dignity - is being met for many people. Our population and our health providers encounter these failures on a daily basis.
Polls show that most Canadians unwaveringly support the five principles laid out in the 1984 Canada Health Act - universality, accessibility, portability, comprehensiveness and public administration.1 In fact, since Medicare was first introduced - in Saskatchewan in 1962 and throughout the rest of Canada soon afterward - the idea of universal health care has become central to our national identity. Nearly half a century after Medicare was first introduced, however, Canada's health care system is falling short of the demands being placed on it from patients and providers.
Canadians well understand that universal health care requires significant public resources to maintain. While the escalating costs of health care are often perceived as the overriding problem, there are other factors contributing to the crisis.
Surveys have repeatedly shown that Canadians are highly satisfied with the care they receive once it is delivered. However, the general view among most Canadians is that their health care system is not as well managed as it must be. They are increasingly concerned about the lack of timely access to see their family physician, the long wait times for diagnostic testing, a widespread lack of access to specialists and specialized treatment, and the compromised quality of care in overburdened emergency rooms, or the unavailability of nearby ER facilities altogether. With our aging population, end of life issues are becoming increasingly important, yet many do not have access to expert palliative care.
The founding principles of Medicare are not being met today either in letter or in spirit. Canadians are not receiving the value they deserve from the health care system. Issues such as quality of care, accountability and sustainability are now recognized as key aspects of a high-performing health system. "Health" by today's standards is not just the assessment and treatment of illness, but also the prevention of illness, and the creation and support of social factors that contribute to health.
Also missing from our current system, but vitally important to proper care, is health information technology (HIT). In this area, Canada is woefully lacking in both resources and coordinated efforts toward a plan of HIT implementation.
Before addressing the missing elements in Canada's health care system, a proper diagnosis of the current system requires a closer look at how the health care system fails to deliver on all five founding principles of Medicare.
Studies have consistently shown that poorer, marginalized populations do not access necessary care. Wealthier populations use health care services more frequently than lower-income populations despite higher illness rates in low-income populations. Poorer communities have fewer services to support good health.
The most vulnerable populations are least able to access and navigate the health care system. At the same time, these are the people most likely to need health care because the essential determinants of health - housing, education and food security - are often not available to them.
Canada's system of universality resonates strongly with Canadians. However, while there is universal first-dollar coverage for insured hospital and medical services, there is uneven coverage of other services also essential to health and quality of life (e.g., prescription drugs and home care).
The principle of accessibility in the Canada Health Act does not define "timely access" to necessary care. For many patients, the months of waiting for necessary treatment amount to a complete lack of "accessibility."
While wait times have been reduced for a limited number of surgical procedures, many Canadians are still waiting far too long to receive necessary medical care for a wide variety of conditions. For many types of treatments, Canadians wait longer than citizens in most other industrialized countries that have similar universal health systems. Approximately five million Canadians do not have a family doctor, severely restricting access to adequate primary medical care.
Provincial/territorial health insurance plans must insure all "medically necessary" hospital and physician services.
Canadians are entitled to all medically necessary (evidence-informed) services to the greatest extent possible. However, since Medicare was established in the 1960s, care patterns have shifted dramatically - away from being primarily acute care in nature, to broader health needs including prevention, treatment and long-term management of chronic illnesses. In addition, new technologies, treatments and medications that were not foreseen by the original planners of Medicare have been developed to diagnose and treat illnesses.
At the time the Canada Health Act was passed, physician and hospital services represented 57% of total health spending; this has declined to 41% in 2008.2 Notwithstanding these changes, there is significant public spending beyond services covered by the Act (in excess of 25% of total spending) for programs such as seniors' drug coverage and home care; however, these programs are not subject to the Act's program criteria and are often subject to arbitrary cutbacks. While a majority of the working-age population and their families are covered by private health insurance, those with lower incomes are less likely to enjoy such benefits. Furthermore, the proportion of Canadians working in non-standard employment conditions (e.g., part-time, temporary or contract work) is increasing and these workers are less likely to have supplementary benefits.3 In addition, while most jurisdictions provide some form of seniors' drug coverage, access to other supplementary benefits post-retirement is most likely highly variable.
Some of the more severe gaps in coverage include:
* the lack of access to prescription medications for those without private health insurance or who are ineligible for government drug benefit programs; this problem is particularly significant for many residents in Atlantic Canada
* the lack of continuing care, including both support for people to stay in their home (home care) or appropriate residential care (e.g., facility-based long-term care)
* a lack of adequate mental health services. Mental illness is one of the leading burdens of illness in Canada. Access to mental health services for both children and adults is poor. Psychiatric hospitals are not covered under the Canada Health Act. Many essential services, such as psychological services or out-of-hospital drug therapies, are not covered under provincial/territorial health insurance plans.
Canadians should receive coverage while travelling outside of their home province or territory.
Portability under the Canada Health Act does not cover citizens who seek non-urgent and non-emergency care outside their home province or territory. Canadians who obtain such care in another province or territory are not covered by their health insurance program unless they receive prior approval (usually for services not available in their home province or territory).
This principle is honoured by some jurisdictions but has never been fully implemented in Québec. Québec did not sign bilateral reciprocal billing agreements with the other provinces and territories stipulating that providers would be reimbursed at host-province rates. Consequently, Québec patients who receive medical care outside of their province must often pay cash for medical services received and then apply to recoup a portion of their costs from the Québec health insurance program.
5. Public administration
Health care insurance plans must be administered and operated on a non-profit basis. The principle of public administration is often misinterpreted to mean public financing of publicly delivered services. In fact, while Medicare services (medically necessary hospital and physician services) are overwhelmingly publicly financed, most services are privately delivered. Most physicians are independent contractors while most hospitals are private organizations governed by community boards. This misconception of what constitutes public administration has inhibited the development of innovative models for publicly funded, privately delivered services.
While Canada's system of Medicare is administered publicly, a case can certainly be made that Canada's health care system is not delivering value for the money spent: Canada is one of the highest spenders of health care when compared to other industrialized countries that offer universal care - Canada is the fifth-highest spender per capita on health care and sixth-highest in terms of spending on health as a percentage of GDP. Canadians spent an estimated $183 billion on health care in 2009, or $5452 per person.2 Of this amount, $3829, or 70%, is spent through the publicly funded system. Health care spending in Canada has increased by 6.8 annually over the past five years and has been increasing faster than the growth in the economy and more importantly faster than revenues at the federal and provincial/territorial levels.
Canada's health care system is under-performing on several key measures, such as timely access, despite the large amounts we spend on health care. Experts agree that Canada's current health care system is not delivering the level of care that other industrialized countries now enjoy. The Conference Board of Canada4, the World Health Organization5, the Commonwealth Fund6 and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy7 have all rated Canada's health care system poorly in terms of "value for money" and efficiency. New governance models should be considered to improve both system effectiveness and accountability.
In addition to the need for improving the performance of our health system is the issue of fiscal sustainability. In 1998, the Auditor General of Canada, Denis Desautels, was among the first to sound an alarm about sustainability with a report on the implications of the aging population. His report projected that government spending on health as a share of GDP; if increases continued apace at an annual rate of 2% of real growth; could as much as double from its 1996 level of 6.4% to 12.5% by 2031.8 According to the most recent estimates from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), government health spending as a percentage of GDP reached 8.4% in 2009i - a level which has already exceeded the 8.1% estimate for 2011 set out in the high-growth scenario of the 1998 report.2
Most recently, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has again sounded the alarm in his February 2010 Fiscal Sustainability report.9 He projects that total provincial-territorial government health expenditure could rise to over 14% of GDP by 2040-41. This report presents estimates of the fiscal gap (which is defined as the increase in taxes and/or reduction in spending, measured relative to GDP) that is required to achieve sustainability over the long term. Under their baseline scenario, the government would need to increase revenue and/or reduce spending by $15.5 billion annually, starting immediately. Given that most commentators expect the demand for health care services to increase, reduced spending seems unlikely; hence the need to increase revenue is the most likely option. If there is no political appetite or public support for increasing public revenues for health on the basis of universality and risk pooling then we will be faced with choosing among options for raising funds from private sources.
A more detailed analysis of health care funding and sustainability is contained in Appendix A.
PART 2: OUR VISION
Summary: There are numerous steps required to transform Canada's health care system so that it becomes highly effective and meets the health needs of Canadians. A first step is to re-examine the five principles of the Canada Health Act - universality, accessibility, comprehensiveness, portability, and public administration - and modernize them to meet current and evolving needs.
MODERNIZING THE PRINCIPLES OF MEDICARE
Change must be undertaken with the patients' interests at the centre. To the CMA, this means meaningful implementation and modernization of the Canada Health Act. Transformational change will refocus our system so that serves the patient - not the other way around as is so often the case today. Canada must follow the lead of other developed countries with universal health care systems that have succeeded in this fundamental objective.
Below are the modernized principles for Canada's health system recommended by the CMA:
All Canadians must have access to the full range of necessary (evidence-informed) health care services using a variety of funding options as necessary to ensure universal coverage regardless of ability to pay. This includes meeting the needs of vulnerable populations who may not be able to access services due to a variety of barriers (e.g., geographical, socio-economic and demographic).
All Canadians must have timely access to the full array of health care services over their life span, from primary care (including health promotion and illness prevention) through institutionally based secondary and tertiary care, to community and home-based services that promote rehabilitation and health maintenance, and to palliation at the end of life. There should be clear, measurable wait-time targets/benchmarks for access to necessary care, with publicly funded alternatives available in situations where timely care is not locally available to patients in need.
All Canadians must have access to the full complement of health services, with incentives in the system to encourage the prevention of illness and to promote optimum health while addressing the complex causative pathways affecting health and disease (i.e., social determinants of health). A defined set of nationally comparable, publicly funded core services should be available to all Canadians chosen through an evidence-informed and transparent manner. There should be an ongoing monitoring of the comparability of access to a full range of medically necessary health services across the country.
All Canadians must be eligible for coverage while travelling within Canada, outside of their home province/territory. This principle must be honored in all jurisdictions, and apply to all levels of necessary care.
5. Public administration
Services must be appropriately, efficiently and effectively delivered, with providers and patients working together to determine how that is done. The system must ensure that care is integrated and coordinated among providers and services to maintain continuity of care. From the patients' perspective, care must be well-coordinated among providers and between levels (i.e., physician to hospital, hospital back to home, etc.), supported by a functional and secure electronic health information system.
The system should be guided by properly structured incentives to reward efficient provision of timely, high-quality patient care. This would include incentives such as activity-based funding of hospitals (i.e., paying on the basis of services provided), and pay-for-performance measures for health care providers, with competition based on valid measures of quality and efficiency. The system would utilize both public and private service providers, and put uniform requirements and regulations in place for measuring quality.ii
The system must be able to demonstrate good value for money. There must be accountability mechanisms and performance measurements in place to ensure responsibility for monitoring and managing system performance (e.g., efficiency and effectiveness) at all levels. Regular public reporting on system performance will be required. Societal health goals and targets focused on outcomes will be set and monitored. Health care providers and the community will be actively involved in system decision-making.
The system needs to be patient-centred. Patient-centred care is seamless access to the continuum of care in a timely manner, based on need and not the ability to pay, that takes into consideration the individual needs and preferences of the patient and his/her family, and treats the patient with respect and dignity.
The system must be properly resourced in a sustainable manner. Funding must be sufficient to meet ongoing health care needs. The system must be resilient; that is, capable of withstanding or accommodating demand surges and fiscal pressures. It must have the capacity to innovate and improve and be able to anticipate emerging health needs. Prospective monitoring and documentation of emerging health needs and the burden of illness must be undertaken on an ongoing basis. Strategies must be developed and implemented to meet those needs properly.
PART 3: THE FRAMEWORK FOR TRANSFORMATION
Summary: The CMA's Health Care Transformation Plan has three core goals: improving population health, improving the patient experience of health care, and improving the value of money spent on health care. There are numerous steps required to transform Canada's health care system so that it becomes highly effective and meets the health needs of Canadians. The next steps are contained in a Framework for Transformation, organized under five pillars, with specific recommendations for action.
1. Building a culture of patient-centred care
* Creation of a Charter for Patient-centred Care
2. Incentives for enhancing access and improving quality of care
* Changing incentives to enhance timely access
* Changing incentives to support quality care
3. Enhancing patient access along the continuum of care
* Universal access to prescription drugs
* Continuing care outside acute care facilities
4. Helping providers help patients
* Ensuring Canada has an adequate supply of health human resources
* More effective adoption of health information technologies
5. Building accountability/responsibility at all levels
* Need for system accountability
* Need for system stewardship
The CMA recognizes that none of these directions, taken separately, will transform our health care system. Nor do they represent an exhaustive list of steps, as there are many other directions that can be taken to support our vision. This framework does, however, contain the necessary directions toward the more efficient, high-functioning, patient-focused system that Canadians deserve.
For the transformation plan to succeed, the following key enablers must be in place:
* leadership at all levels including strong political leadership
* well-informed Canadians who understand the need for, and characteristics of, a high-performing health system
* patients, physicians and other providers actively involved in the reform and management of the system
* a commitment to sustainability with adequate levels of resources to ensure that services are in place
* health information technology in place to improve service delivery, manage care within and between services, and monitor and evaluate organization and system performance
* incentives properly aligned to support a variety of funding and delivery models that can meet system goals (e.g., to improve access, to improve quality)
* co-ordinated health human resources planning at the provincial/territorial and national levels
* a commitment to support continuous quality improvement and evidence-informed decision-making at both the policy and clinical levels.
These five pillars contain the directions which the CMA believes are necessary to successfully transform our health care system. Many other reforms have been proposed in Canada and elsewhere but based on international experience, these should receive priority attention.
1. BUILDING A CULTURE OF PATIENT-CENTRED CARE
The concept of "patient-centred care" is taking hold in other developed countries which are also in the process of reforming their health care systems. The essential principle is that health care services are provided in a manner that works best for patients. Health care providers partner with patients and their families to identify and satisfy the range of needs and preferences. Health providers, governments and patients each have their own specific roles in creating and moving toward a patient-centred system.
Patients have consistently emphasized the importance of being respected, having open communication and confidentiality of personal information, in addition to quality medical care. While building a patient-centred system is clearly better for patients, it is also better for physicians and all health care providers and administrators. In a patient-centred system, physicians are provided the optimal environment to give the best possible medical care. From the perspective of health administrators, recruitment and retention of providers who are satisfied with their work and their environment can have many tangible benefits. For instance, hospitals employing patient-centred care principles have found improvements in patient outcomes in areas ranging from decreased length of stay and fewer medication errors to enhanced staff recruitment.10
It is recognized that health care providers strive to practise patient-centred care. Often the issue is that the system - intended to serve as a network of services - is where patient-centred care breaks down.
CHARTER FOR PATIENT-CENTRED CARE
An important first step in building a culture of patient-centred care is to establish a Charter for Patient-centred Care. As a vision statement, the Charter is built on a foundation of reasonableness and fairness, while acknowledging resource constraints. Notwithstanding resource constraints, governments have the duty to ensure availability of the resources required to provide high quality care. This Charter is a mutually reciprocal covenant among patients, physicians, other health care providers, funders and organizers of care.
Dignity and respect
* All persons are treated with compassion, dignity and respect.
* Health care is provided in an environment that is free from discrimination and/or stigma of any kind.
* Health care services respond to individual needs and give consideration to personal preferences.
Access to care (timeliness, continuity, comprehensiveness)
* Access to and timeliness of appropriate medical and psychiatric services is determined by health need.
* Access to appropriate services is not limited by the patient's ability to pay.
* Care is continuous between health care providers and across settings.
Safety and appropriateness
* Care is provided in accordance with the applicable professional standard of care, by appropriately qualified health care providers, regardless of the location of service.
* Care is based upon the best available evidence and is provided in the safest possible environment.
* The quality of all health care services is evaluated, monitored and improved proactively.
* Care is informed and influenced by lessons learned from any critical incident or adverse event and by patient experiences.
Privacy and security of information
* Personal health information is collected, stored, accessed, used, disclosed and accessible to patients in accordance with applicable law and professional codes of ethics.
* Providers and recipients of care share responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of information in personal health records.
* Patients participate actively with providers in decisions about their medical care and treatment.
* Personal support and assistance with communication is available when required.
* Patients may appoint another person (proxy decision-maker) to act on their behalf and to be aware of their personal health information.
* Decisions for care are made with full disclosure of all relevant information.
* Patients may consent to or refuse any examination, intervention or treatment, and may change or vary their decisions without prejudice.
* Individuals may decline to participate in research without prejudice.
Insurability and Planning of health services
* All parties use health care resources appropriately.
* Recipients and providers are informed and are able to be involved directly, or through representatives, in the planning, organization, delivery and evaluation of health care services.
* Decisions about the provision and insurability of drugs and all other treatments or services are made in accordance with evidence and best practices.
* Government decision-making with respect to the planning, regulation and delivery of health care products and services is transparent.
Concerns and complaints
* Patients may comment on any aspect of their personal health care and have concerns investigated and addressed without repercussions.
* Patients receive timely information and an expression of regret and sympathy if there is any adverse event during their care, regardless of the reason for such event.
* Providers speak publicly and advocate on behalf of Canadians for the provision of high quality care.
The creation of a Charter for Patient-centred Care, as presented above, is a solid foundation on which to build a culture of patient-centred care. In order for the Charter to work, it needs to have supporting mechanisms to ensure accountability. Metrics must be identified to track the elements of the Charter. The Charter needs to be accepted by governments, providers and patients to have an impact on the health system culture and care.
Other examples of activities to promote a culture of patient-centred care may include:
* increasing availability of programs to prevent illness
* increasing involvement of patients and their families in the delivery of care when desired (e.g., if preferred by the patient, family and friends may be trained to help provide care for patients while in the hospital or community)
* soliciting patients' feedback on health care services received, and readiness to make changes based on that feedback
* establishing patient and family advisory councils for hospitals or health regions
* establishing a process for patients or their family members to quickly and efficiently raise a concern about care
* providing patients with information about how to access medical records while in the hospital or in the community
Progress to date/Next steps
The final report of Saskatchewan's Patient First Review, For Patients' Sake (2009),11 devoted considerable attention to the need to re-orient health care to a more patient-centred system. As Commissioner Tony Dagnone stated in his report, "patient-first must be embedded as a core value in health care and be ingrained in the 'DNA' of all health care organizations". The report recommended the adoption of a Charter of Patient Rights and Responsibilities for that province.
More recently, an advisory committee to the Alberta Minister of Health has also recommended the creation of a Patient Charter for that province.12
Lessons can be learned from the effects of patient charters in other developed countries. The National Health Service in England recently adopted a constitution which establishes its principles and values: sets out the rights to which patients, public and staff are entitled; includes pledges that the National Health Service is committed to achieve; delineates the responsibilities which the public, patients and staff owe to one another to ensure that the National Health Service operates fairly and effectively.13 The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights describes seven charter rights to which patients, consumers, carers and families are entitled and the ways they can contribute to ensuring their rights are upheld.14 Those rights are: access, safety, respect, communication, participation, privacy and a right to comment on care and have concerns addressed.
2. PROVIDING INCENTIVES TO ENHANCE ACCESS AND IMPROVE QUALITY OF CARE
Canadians have consistently identified timely access as Canada's most pressing health issue. Many other health systems around the world have been successful in dealing with timely access and now are examining the quality of care being delivered. This direction looks at changing incentives to accomplish two related objectives: improving timely access and supporting quality care.
A. Enhance timely access
Most provinces have taken steps to improve timely access to certain components of their health system. For instance, the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative has set a target for specialty wait times to be no longer than three months within the next four years.15
At the physician level, several initiatives are underway across Canada. In late 2009, the Primary Care Wait Time Partnership involving the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and the CMA released its final report entitled, The Wait Starts Here.16 The report identifies several strategies for improving timely access to primary care. Efforts are also underway in some jurisdictions, such as in Manitoba, to improve the referral process from family physician to specialist (i.e., the timeliness and the appropriateness of referrals).
Activity-based funding - an idea raised in the Kirby Commission's final report17 - is another strategy to improve timely access at the facility level. Activity-based funding is a reimbursement mechanism that pays hospitals for each patient treated on the basis of the complexity of their case. A reimbursement level is set for each type of case then applies to all hospitals within the jurisdiction. It is also known as service-based funding, case-mix funding or patient-focused funding. As such, funding is viewed as "following the patient" since the hospital is paid only if the service is provided, resulting in increased productivity and in some instances, competition among hospitals to treat patients.
Financing of hospital services in most industrialized countries involves some portion of activity-based funding. Canada, although it has been a pioneer in the methodology that underlies activity-based funding, has had limited application for funding purposes. Most hospitals in Canada receive their funding in the form of a global budget that is usually based on historical funding levels. As a result, a well-performing hospital emergency room does not receive any additional funding for seeing more patients.
Canada should move toward partial activity-based funding for hospitals to improve hospital productivity. It is almost impossible to decrease wait times and reward productivity without this change in funding. While some countries have implemented 100% activity-based funding, other countries have shown that productivity can increase when even 25% of hospital funding is allocated in this manner.
Progress to date/Next steps
A number of provinces have taken steps to introduce activity-based funding for facility-based care. The government of British Columbia announced that it will provide "patient-focused funding" for the province's 23 largest hospitals.18 Ontario already has some limited activity-based funding for its hospitals and the government has announced that it will introduce patient-based payment for hospitals on April 1, 2011 as part of a multi-year implementation plan.19 Alberta announced in 2009 that it would be adopting a form of activity-based funding for long-term care facilities that started April 1, 2010 and for hospitals the year after.20 While not yet in place in Québec, the adoption of activity-based funding was recommended in the 2008 Castonguay report.21
Much of the work involved in supporting the adoption of partial activity-based funding has already been undertaken by CIHI and its well-developed Case Mix Group program supported by case-costing data from BC, Alberta and Ontario.
B. Support quality care
Timely access is one dimension of quality. But there are many other dimensions of quality including safety, effectiveness, appropriateness and acceptability. More recently in Canada, attention is now focused on incentives to improve quality in the processes of care to achieve better outcomes.
Incentives for providers
Pay-for-performance involves the use of an incentive payment to reward a hospital or physician provider for achieving a target for the quality of patient care. This may be linked to processes or outcomes of care and could be related to the attainment of a specified threshold and/or percentage improvement. Performance incentives may also be linked to the structure of health care delivery as well as the process of that delivery. 22 It is important to note that pay-for-performance, which refers to incentive payments for achieving quality targets, is not the same as activity-based funding, which is a reimbursement mechanism that pays hospitals for each patient treated on the basis of the complexity of their case.
Performance incentives can be targeted at both group output provided by a team of providers (nurses, physical therapists, physicians, etc.) as well as individual members of the team. The incentives may also be targeted at measuring the process involved in delivering the desired health care output.
Canada will likely follow the lead of other countries in increasing the focus on the outputs and outcomes of the health care system. The promise of pay-for-performance programs is that they can improve access, quality and accountability. Pink et al. 23 have tried to synthesize the international experience with pay-for-performance and its implications for Canada. Based on this assessment they offer four key considerations:
1. Pay-for-performance could potentially be used to target individual providers, provider groups/organizations, or health regions.
2. The selection of quality measures should consider provincial/territorial health goals and objectives, measures included in existing report cards, evidence and the ability to risk-adjust and the extent of provider acceptance.
3. Development of pay for performance should consider factors that are within the scope of control of providers, use positive incentives over disincentives and consider size/timing and perceived fairness of awards.
4. Program evaluation should consider the impact on patients and providers, quality measurement and how payments are used to improve quality.
In addition, they cite the need to address enablers/barriers including information technology, consultation, implementation costs and resistance.
Implement appropriate pay-for-performance systems. Adopt principles that secure equity and efficiency in pay-for-performance programs in Canada that will ensure the best outcomes for patients, physicians and the health care system at large.
Progress to date/Next steps
Pay-for-performance has already started in a number of provinces as seen in the table below.
Examples of pay-for-performance programs already in effect in Canada
[SEE PDF FOR CORRECT DISPLAY OF TABLE INFORMATION]
Type of program
Family Physician Chronic Disease Management Incentive Program
Cumulative Preventive Care Bonuses for achieving specified thresholds of preventive care for their patients in five areas: influenza vaccine, pap smear, mammography, childhood immunizations and colorectal cancer screening
Physician Integrated Network has a Quality Based Incentive component24
Performance and Diligence Indicator (PDI) Fund for Family Physicians: The PDI Fund provides payments to family physicians who meet specific indicators in the care of their patients. The PDI program "will provide payments to individual family physicians, in and out of primary care networks, who meet specific performance and/or diligence indicators that deliver substantive clinical value"25
Full Service Family Practice Incentive Program: this includes an obstetrical care bonus payment and an expansion of the Full Service Family Practice Condition Payments that were introduced in 2003. The condition-based bonus payments are related to the monitoring patients' course of care according to BC Clinical Guidelines for diabetes, congestive heart failure and hypertension26
Pay-for-performance programs will continue to expand in Canada. Governments and insurance companies are introducing pay-for-performance incentive programs throughout the industrialized world with the goal of improving health care delivery efficiencies and especially to improve patient care. These are lofty goals because measuring improvements in patient care is complicated. It is vital that physicians, patients and the health care system establish principles that can guide them to make the best decisions concerning pay-for-performance. The scope of the program and what is measured will surely evolve. Full-scale adoption requires an electronic medical record (EMR) to be in place.
Incentives for patients
At a macro level, public policies can be instituted to encourage healthy behaviours and environmental improvements (e.g., water quality standards). At the individual level, consideration should be given to empowering patients through the use of patient incentives.
A rapidly emerging dimension of pay-for-performance is the use of incentives directed at the patient for health maintenance and healthy behaviours. Hall has reported that a number of US employers are offering tangible rewards to employees such as cash, merchandise, vacation days, and reductions in health care premiums or deductibles.27 These incentives are targeted variously at:
* activity (e.g., completing a health risk assessment)
* achievement (e.g., quitting smoking, lowering Body Mass Index)
* adherence (e.g., remaining tobacco-free for 12 months)
Positive incentives are used to promote healthy behaviours by transferring funds or alternate benefits to an individual. They work by providing immediate rewards for behaviours that usually provide only long-term health gains. Positive incentives have been shown to be effective in promoting singular, discrete behaviours, such as vaccinations, screening programs, and attending follow-up appointments. An example of an existing Canadian federal government incentive is the children's fitness tax credit. This credit is intended to promote physical activity among children by off-setting some of the cost incurred by families for sports and leisure programs.
In Germany, bonuses for healthy behaviours are integrated into the health system. They are offered for both primary and secondary prevention, including check-up programs, achieving healthy weights, smoking cessation, memberships in sports clubs, and other health-promoting activities. The bonuses take the form of points that can be redeemed for items, including sports equipment, health books or reduction in insurance premiums, or in some cases cash. There are also bonuses, in the form of a reduction in co-payments, for adhering to the treatment plan and participating in special care plans.28
Negative incentives or disincentives by governments largely involve the use of regulation and taxation in order to change individual behaviour. This helps to create an environment in which healthy choices are easier to make. For example, the taxation of tobacco, alcohol or unhealthy foods (such as those high in fat, salt or sugar) are commonly cited interventions. Taxes on tobacco products have been highly effective in reducing use. Studies linking cost to consumption of high-sugar content beverages demonstrate a strong link between higher prices and reduced consumption.29
3. ENHANCING PATIENT ACCESS ALONG THE CONTINUUM OF CARE
The continuum of care may be defined as the array of health services, regardless of the age of the recipient, ranging from primary care (including health promotion and illness prevention), through institutionally based secondary and tertiary care for acute medical situations, to community- and home-based services that promote health maintenance and rehabilitation for people with chronic problems, and finally to palliation at the end of life.
There is a strong realization that Canada's Medicare system covers a decreasing portion of this continuum. An example of where deficits exist is mental health. The CMA's 2008 annual meeting (General Council) tackled the issue of improving access to mental health services as part of a greater effort led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The CMA is currently working toward the several resolutions that were adopted, but there are two other areas that are in urgent need of attention.
Crucial to improved care is (A) universal access to comprehensive prescription drug coverage and; (B) improving access to continuing care (long-term care, home care and palliative care/hospice).
Physicians currently spend a significant amount of time assisting patients to obtain access to necessary prescription drugs. Physicians and families are also heavily engaged in time-consuming efforts to place patients in long-term care facilities or secure assistance in the home. Improving access for Canadians in these two areas would help create a more patient-centred health care system, and enhance efficiency for providers.
CMA approved a new policy on Funding the Continuum of Care in December 2009 that identifies a number of overall principles to enhance the continuum of care:
* optimal management of the continuum of care requires that patients take an active part in developing their care and treatment plan, and in monitoring their health status
* the issue of the continuum of care must go beyond the question of financing and address questions related to the organization of the delivery of care and to the shared and joint responsibilities of individuals, communities and governments in matters of health care and promotion, prevention and rehabilitation
* support systems should be established to allow elderly and disabled Canadians to optimize their ability to live in the community
* strategies should be implemented to reduce wait times for accessing publicly funded home and community care services
* integrated service delivery systems should be created for home and community care services
* any request for expanding the public plan coverage of health services, in particular for home care services and the cost of prescription drugs, must include a comprehensive analysis of the projected cost and potential sources of financing for this expansion
A. Universal access to prescription drugs
Prescription drugs represent the fastest-growing item in the health budget, and the second-largest category of health expenditure. It is estimated that less than one-half of prescription drug costs were publicly paid for in 2008.2 Moreover, Canada does not have a nationally coordinated policy in the area of very costly drugs that are used to treat rare diseases.
The term "catastrophic" has been used by First Ministers and in the National Pharmaceutical Strategy to describe their vision of national pharmaceutical coverage. As defined by the World Health Organization, catastrophic expenditure reflects a level of out-of-pocket health expenditures so high that households have to cut down on necessities such as food and clothing and items related to children's education. From the CMA's perspective, the goal is comprehensive coverage for the whole population, pooling risk across individuals and public and private plans in various jurisdictions.
Governments, in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public, should establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies.
Such a program should include the following elements:
* a mandate for all Canadians to have either private or public coverage for prescription drugs
* uniform income-based ceiling (between public and private plans and across provinces/territories) on out-of-pocket expenditures on drug plan premiums and/or prescription drugs (e.g., 5% of after-tax income)
* federal/provincial/territorial cost-sharing of prescription drug expenditures above a household income ceiling, subject to capping the total federal and/or provincial/territorial contributions either by adjusting the federal/provincial/territorial sharing of reimbursement or by scaling the household income ceiling or both
* group insurance plans and administrators of employee benefit plans to pool risk above a threshold linked to group size
* a continued strong role for private supplementary insurance plans and public drug plans on a level playing field (i.e., premiums and co-payments to cover plan costs)
Furthermore the federal government should:
* establish a program for access to expensive drugs for rare diseases where those drugs have been demonstrated to be effective
* assess the options for risk pooling to cover the inclusion of expensive drugs in public and private drug plan formularies
* provide adequate financial compensation to the provincial and territorial governments that have developed, implemented and funded their own public prescription drug insurance plans
* provide comprehensive coverage of prescription drugs and immunization for all children in Canada
* mandate the CIHI and Statistics Canada to conduct a detailed study of the socio-economic profile of Canadians who have out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses, in order to assess barriers to access and to design strategies that could be built into a comprehensive prescription drug coverage program
Progress to date/Next steps
Provinces and territories have begun to establish public programs of income-based prescription drug coverage. Québec was the first, starting in 1997, and it remains the only province to mandate universal coverage - that is, citizens must have either public or private coverage. Alberta is the most recent to move in this direction, with a seven-point pharmaceutical strategy that was introduced in 2009.30
Overall, however, there is significant variation between the coverage levels of the various plans across Canada. For example, the Manitoba Pharmacare Program is based on adjusted total income (line 150 of the Income Tax return). For families with incomes above $75,000 the deductible is set at 6.08% of total family income.31 In Newfoundland and Labrador, the ceiling on drug costs is set at 10% of net family income (line 236 of the Income Tax return).32 There is wide variation in the burden of out-of-pocket expenditure on prescription drugs in Canada. In 2006 there was almost five-fold variation in the percentage of households spending more than 5% of net income on prescription drugs between PEI (10.1%) and Ontario (2.2%).33
There is some concern about access to cancer drugs, particularly those that are administered outside of hospital. The Canadian Cancer Society has recently reported that of the 12 cancer drugs approved since 2000 that are administered outside a hospital or clinic, three-quarters cost $20,000 or more annually.34 In 2009, Ontario Ombudsman André Morin issued a report critical of the Ministry of Health's decision to limit public funding of the colorectal cancer drug Avastin to 16 cycles.35 Subsequently the government announced that it would cover the cost beyond the 16 cycles if medical evidence from a physician indicates that there has been no disease progression.36
Most, if not all, key national health stakeholders (hospitals,37 pharmacists,38 nurses,39 brand name pharmaceuticals,40 life and health insurance industry41 plus the health charities) have adopted policy statements on catastrophic coverage. There seems to be an unprecedented consensus among health stakeholders on this issue.
The most likely window of opportunity to urge the federal government to take action in this area will be the renegotiation of the Health Accord that is set to expire on March 31, 2014.
B. Continuing care
Continuing care includes services to the aging and to the disabled of all ages provided by long-term care, home care and home support.42 Because continuing care services are excluded from the Canada Health Act, they are, for the most part, not provided on a first-dollar coverage basis. As this kind of care moves away from hospitals and into the home, the community or into long-term care facilities, the financial burden has shifted from governments to the general public. Furthermore, there is tremendous variation across the country in the accessibility criteria for both placement in long-term care facilities and for home care services.
According to Statistics Canada's most recent population projections, the proportion of seniors in the population (65+) is expected to almost double from its present level of 13% to between 23% and 25% by 2031.43 While the impact of an aging population on our health care system must not be overlooked, the continuing care needs of the disabled population at all ages must also be appropriately addressed.
In the 2004 Health Accord, the provinces and territories agreed to publicly fund two weeks of acute home care after hospital discharge, two weeks of acute community mental health care and end-of-life care.44 Outside of these areas, the types of services offered and funding models vary widely.
Continuing care in Canada faces three key challenges:
1. Lack of capacity and access: There is tremendous variation among regions in the levels of public funding for facility-based long-term care. Part of the reason is the lack of national standards for home care services, which results in a wide range of the types of services available, their accessibility, wait times and eligibility for funding. The widespread scarcity of long-term care facilities and home care services has had deleterious consequences: emergency departments are being used as holding stations while admitted patients wait for a bed to become available, surgeries are being postponed, and the care for Alternate Levels of Care patientsiii is compromised in areas that may not suit each patient's specific needs. Major investment is required in community and institutionally based care.
2. Lack of support for informal caregivers: Much of the burden of continuing care falls on informal (unpaid) caregivers. More than one million employed people aged 45-64 provide informal care to seniors with long-term conditions or disabilities45 and 80% of home care to seniors is provided by unpaid informal caregivers.46
3. Lack of funding for long-term care: It is impractical to expect future requirements for long-term care to be funded on the same "pay-as-you-go" basis as other health expenditures. While there is general agreement that, wherever possible, residents should contribute at least a partial payment toward the cost of accommodation at a long-term care facility, the calculation for these charges is inconsistent across the country.
Ensure that all Canadians have affordable and timely access to all elements of any continuing care they require.
The CMA recommends the following actions:
* Construction should begin immediately on additional long-term care facilities. With the senior population projected to increase to around 24% of the population by 2031, and with 3.5% of seniors currently living in these facilities, in order to simply maintain the same occupancy rates, we will need roughly 2,500 additional homes by then. The Building Canada Fund is an ideal source of initial infrastructure funding.
* The federal government should work with the provinces and territories to create national standards for continuing care provision in terms of eligibility criteria, care delivery and accommodation expenses, using the Veterans Independence Plan as a starting point.
* The federal government should make long-term care insurance premiums tax deductible, introduce a Registered Long-term Care Plan and/or consider adding a third special provision for the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) that is similar to the Lifelong Learning Plan and the Home Buyers' Plan, which will allow working adults to draw from their RRSP, without penalty, to pay for their long-term care or home care needs; and consider adding a third payroll tax for continuing care purposes.
* Governments initiate a national dialogue on the Canada Health Act in relation to the continuum of care.
* Governments should adopt a policy framework and design principles for access to publicly funded medically necessary services in the home and community setting that can become the basis of a "Canada Extended Health Services Act".
* Governments and provincial/territorial medical associations review physician remuneration for home- and community-based services.
* Governments undertake pilot studies to support informal caregivers and long-term care patients, including those that
a) explore tax credits and/or direct compensation to compensate informal caregivers for their work
b) expand relief programs for informal caregivers that provide guaranteed access to respite services in emergency situations
c) expand income and asset testing for residents requiring assisted living and long-term care
d) promote information on advance directives and representation agreements for patients
Progress to date/Next steps
Many other groups have released reports on this issue, including the Canadian Healthcare Association's 2009 reports on home care and long-term care. Among many other recommendations, both of these reports call for the introduction of national minimum standards for care and additional support for caregivers.47, 48
New Brunswick announced an ambitious long-term care strategy in early 2008 and the province has invested $167 million in long-term care facilities since 2007. There are plans to open 318 nursing home beds over the next three years, with plans to open a total of 700 in the next 10 years.49 The federal government should use New Brunswick as an example to encourage all other provinces and territories to follow suit.
In its final report released in April 2009, the Special Senate Committee on Aging made 32 recommendations; eight of them specifically address health care for seniors in terms of care provision, accommodation and affordability.50
As with improving access to prescription drugs, the most likely window of opportunity to press the federal government to take action in the area of continuing care will be the renegotiation of the 2004 Health Accord that is set to expire on March 31, 2014.
4. HELPING PROVIDERS HELP PATIENTS
The fourth pillar of health care transformation speaks to creating necessary resources to support patient-centred care. Two areas that are absolutely essential are: (A) an adequate supply of health human resources; and (B) health information technology at the level in which care is provided or point of care.
A. Health human resources
Every high-performing health system begins with a strong primary care system in place. Yet roughly 5 million Canadians do not have a regular family physician, and once Canadians do access primary care, they often face long waits to see consulting specialists, and further waits for advanced diagnostics and ultimately treatment. Part of the reason for these delays is the shortage of health care professionals in Canada.
An Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study of countries with wait times shows that the availability of physicians has the strongest association with lower wait times than any other factor.51 Notably, Canada's physician supply relative to the population is far below the OECD average. Statistics indicate that in 2006 Canada had only 2.15 practising physicians per 1,000 population compared to the OECD average of 3.07.52 With the number of medical graduates similarly low in comparison to the OECD average, Canada cannot expect to make up the difference without some new sources for physicians.
Nurses and other health professionals are also in short supply, in Canada and across the globe. The Canadian Nurses Association is projecting a shortage of 60,000 full-time equivalent nurses in Canada by 2022 if no new policies are adopted,53 and Western Europe is also experiencing a significant nursing shortage. The global shortage of health professionals compounds the problem - while Canadian training programs still lack sufficient seats to produce enough new providers to meet current and future demands, Canadian-educated physicians, nurses, technicians, etc, are being lured away by ample opportunities to train and work outside of Canada.
Initiatives such as the Nursing Sector Study,54 Task Force Two,55 the 2004 Federal/Provincial/ Territorial 10-year Plan to Strengthen Health Care44 and the 2005 Framework for Collaborative Pan-Canadian Health Human Resources Planning56 have all yielded abundant information and recommendations, yet Canada still seems unable to maintain a stable supply of physicians, nurses, technicians or other health care professionals to provide the care and treatment patients need.
In its 2008 election platform, the federal government announced that it would contribute funds to the provinces and territories to create 50 new residency positions ($10 million/year for four years), ease repatriation of Canadian physicians living abroad ($5 million/year for four years) and help fund the development of nursing recruitment and retention pilot projects ($5 million over three years). On May 10, 2010, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced funding of $6.9 million for 15 additional family medicine residents in the University of Manitoba's Northern and Remote Family Medicine Program. This is a promising start.57
Collaborative care models - whereby health professionals work together with, and in the best interests of, the patient - can help address some of the gaps in health human resources. Over the past decade there have been three key trends pertinent to collaboration in health care:
* the contention/recognition that collaboration is an important element of quality patient-centred care
* the growing interest in inter-professional education among health professions
* the sustained efforts by governments to foster multidisciplinary teams by creating competitive conditions in primary care through expanding the scope of other non-physician providers
Physicians recognize the value of collaboration. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC), the CFPC and the CMA have all released policy documents that identified collaboration with other health professionals as a key role of the physician.58,59,60 The RCPSC has since been working to incorporate these roles and competencies in postgraduate medical training programs across Canada. In 2006, the national boards of ten health professional organizations including CMA and CFPC each ratified the principles and framework for interdisciplinary collaboration in primary health care that were developed by a consortium of staff of these organizations, sponsored by the federal Primary Health Care Transition Fund.61
In an effort to find ways to better distribute the workload and improve access to care, much attention has been turned to the role of physician extenders such as physician assistants. Physician assistants can be trained to work autonomously to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients in a partnership and with the supervision of a licensed physician.
In Canada, four programs exist to train physician assistants. The Canadian Forces Medical Services School at the Canadian Forces Base Borden in Ontario trains Canadian Forces members while civilian physician assistants can train at McMaster University, the University of Toronto and the University of Manitoba. After the CMA Board approved the inclusion of the physician assistant profession as a designated health science profession within the accreditation process in 2003, its Conjoint Accreditation Services accredited the Canadian Forces' Physician Assistant Program in 2004. Although this program is currently the only one accredited, the other three schools are undergoing the process.
Working smarter, Canada needs to be more systematic about innovations and adoption of health sector resources. There is no national body in Canada equivalent to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in the US, or the National Health Service's Institute for Innovation and Improvement in England, that is charged with promoting innovation in the delivery of health services. In Canada, the $800-million 2000 Primary Health Care Transition Fund and its fore-runner the $150-million 1997 Health Transition Fund were intended to buy transformation in areas linked to primary care. For the most part, this resulted in short-term pilot demonstration projects that ended when the money ran out. Arguably only Ontario and Alberta have achieved lasting results through the development and proliferation of new models of primary care delivery.
Ensure Canada's health care system has an adequate supply of human resources. Addressing health human resource shortages is critical to ensuring a sustainable, accessible and patient-centred health care system. The evaluation of and long-term planning for health human resources needs to be performed by a national body using the best available evidence to support its deliberations. Based on the defined need, there are four main mechanisms to address the shortage of health human resources in the Canadian health care system. These are:
1. increase medical school and residency positions to replenish and increase our physician supply for the future
2. invest in recruitment and retention strategies for physicians, nurses and other health care workers
3. ease the process of integration into our health care workforce for international medical graduates and Canadian physicians returning from abroad
4. introduce new providers such as physician assistants to the health care workforce
Progress to date/Next steps
Immediate specific steps for increasing Canada's supply of health human resources are as follows:
1. Urge the federal government to honour the remainder of its 2008 commitment to fund residency positions, repatriation of Canadian physicians abroad and pilot projects to recruit and retain nurses.
2. Secure comprehensive funding plans for physician assistant compensation.
3. Continue to work with the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada and provincial/territorial medical associations to monitor the impact of the new labour mobility provision of the Agreement on Internal Trade on the distribution and mobility of physicians.
4. Work with provincial/territorial medical associations to carry out an inventory and assessment of the payment arrangements across Canada that foster the emergence of new practice models based on an interdisciplinary approach and the use of new information technologies.
5. Work with other stakeholders to promote the idea of a national locus for innovation in the delivery of health care.
Since it can take ten years or longer to train a new physician depending on specialty, the results of increasing medical school placements and residency positions will not be immediate. However, this plan would ultimately increase the future supply of physicians, and serve as a step toward becoming more self-sufficient in the future.
As medical education and postgraduate training extend beyond academic health science centres to the community, and as inter-professional education takes on greater emphasis, educational programs need to ensure quality training experiences. Physicians-in-training require adequate human, clinical and physical resources to train appropriately. Programs must ensure that all new teaching sites are properly equipped to take learners.
Training new providers, such as physician assistants, is a medium-term option since it takes fewer years (as few as two depending on the program) to train them. Increasing their numbers within the health workforce and permitting them to share some tasks will allow physicians to devote more one-on-one time with patients. Similarly, integrating international medical graduates and repatriating Canadian physicians currently practising outside the country could be a quicker method of increasing physician numbers than training new physicians, provided that appropriate immigration policies and licensure processes are in place.
Removing certain constrains, such as limited operating room times, and providing support for collaborative models of care would allow the health human resources currently available to optimize their ability to practise. These options could see results in the shorter term.
B. More effective adoption of health information technologies (HIT)
Over the past decade, Canada's ministers and deputy ministers of health have been developing strategies to relieve mounting pressures within the health care sector. In all of these strategies, HIT has been viewed as a foundational component. Five main reasons for implementing HIT have been identified: improved health outcomes (patient safety, wait time reduction), increased accessibility, better integration of health care "silos," cost efficiencies and improved patient-provider satisfaction.
Multi-billion dollar investments made in Canada on HIT, however, have not yet resulted in significant benefits to providers or patients. In large measure this is due to the fact that all jurisdictions have taken a top-down approach to their HIT strategies and focused their investment on large-scale HIT systems and architecture, with very little investment being made at the points of care where the actual benefits of HIT will be realized.
The majority of health care occurs at the local level. Some 400 million patient encounters take place in Canada each year with most occurring in primary care settings with physicians, clinical teams, in home care and long-term care facilities.62 Patient-physician office interactions outnumber patient-hospital interactions by a ratio of 18 to 1. In Ontario (Diagram 1), just 3,000 out of an average of 247,000 patient visits per day - or 1.2% - are made in hospitals.
Diagram 1. Patient visits per day in Ontario (Canada Health Infoway)
Compared to a select group of other industrialized countries, Canada ranks last in terms of "health information practice capacity" (i.e., the use of EMRs in primary care practice). According to the most recent Commonwealth Fund study (Figure 1) conducted in 2009, only 37% of Canadian primary care physicians use some form of EMR. That compares to 99% in the Netherlands, 97% in New Zealand, 96% in the UK and 95% in Australia. 63
We need to move from a top-down approach to one that gives all providers, and in particular physicians, the lead role in determining how best to use HIT to improve care, improve safety, improve access and help alleviate our growing health human resource issue. HIT adoption needs to be accelerated, but in a way that focuses on the individual patient and where he or she interacts with the health care delivery system, with the intent of improving quality of care and patient safety. An important priority must be a clear, target-driven plan that meets the needs of Canadian physicians and their patients.
The CMA and provincial/territorial medical associations will develop a five-year plan with clear targets for accelerating the adoption of HIT in Canada. This includes working with governments to accelerate the introduction of e-prescribing in Canada to make it the main method of prescribing by 2012.
Progress to date/Next steps
In February 2009, the federal government announced a $500 million investment in HIT, with specific focus on EMRs and point of care integration, as part of their Economic Stimulus package. Transfer of these funds to Canada Health Infoway was delayed due to concerns over accountability and lack of progress on the electronic health record (EHR) agenda on the part of Infoway and most jurisdictions. The Office of the Auditor General's report on Infoway, and six provincial audits on jurisdictional EHR progress addressed these concerns and the funds were finally transferred in spring 2010.
CMA is working to ensure that the bulk of this investment is allocated to physician EMRs, as well as local interoperability solutions and applied research on EMR use and patient tools. How to achieve this goal will be described in detail in the CMA's upcoming five-year strategy for HIT investment in Canada, a plan to connect the delivery points at the front lines of care.
Provincially, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia have established EMR funding programs and are the most likely to meet targets and realize the value of HIT. The addition of $500 million federal stimulus funding to this environment will allow the remaining provinces and territories to implement similar programs.
The key will be to focus HIT efforts and investment directly at the point of care. The CMA five-year HIT plan takes a grassroots, bottom-up approach and identifies ways to quickly implement local and regional solutions that will deliver short-term, tangible benefits without building un-scalable, expensive point-to-point solutions.
The five-year HIT plan in and of itself is not the goal of this undertaking. The key to effectiveness lies in ensuring any HIT plan sets clear benchmarks and targets for reporting progress and demonstrating value of accelerated HIT adoption in terms of patient care - access, quality and safety.
The CMA five-year HIT strategy will set out clear targets and metrics for benchmarking progress and demonstrating value. Tracking and reporting on progress against these targets would occur over the following three to five years, with a final report card to be released at the end of this period.
5. BUILDING ACCOUNTABILITY/RESPONSIBILITY AT ALL LEVELS
Two key issues confronting the Canadian health care system are (A) the lack of accountability for system quality of care and performance, and (B) the lack of stewardship for the integrity of the public health insurance program and its long-term financial sustainability.
A. Need for system accountability
The past decade has seen growing demand for accountability for performance and outcomes at all levels of the health care system, which has been impossible to deliver due to a lack of direction, resources or accountability. As a result, Canada's ability to report publicly on the performance of the Canadian health care system has been piecemeal at best. A main stumbling block is the federal/provincial/territorial dynamic, with provinces and territories being primarily responsible for health care.
In 2000, First Ministers made a commitment to develop common indicators to report to their citizens and in 2003 they set out some 40 indicators in the areas of timely access, quality, sustainability and health status and wellness. Subsequently, the Health Council of Canada was set up to monitor the 2003 Health Accord, but since 2004 only the federal government has honoured its commitment to produce indicators, and Québec and Alberta do not participate on the Health Council. The December 2008 report of the federal Auditor General criticized Health Canada for a lack of interpretation in its report and on the limited number of indicators specific to the First Nations and Inuit Health, for which Health Canada is responsible.64
Some national organizations and private organizations are reporting on health system performance at the macro level. CIHI has been producing annual wait time reports in the past years. Think tanks that have also reported on health system performance include: the Commonwealth Fund, the Conference Board of Canada (which has ranked Canada as a middle-of-the-pack performer) and the Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index, which has ranked Canada 30th out of 30 countries in terms of value for money spent on health care in both 2008 and 2009 (the US was not included).7 The Wait Time Alliance65 has produced five report cards on wait times, assessing national and provincial/territorial performance on access to elective care. The CMA has been releasing an annual report card as part of the General Council meetings for the past nine years.
At the provincial/territorial level, reporting on health system performance varies widely. All provinces and territories have been reporting wait times, albeit in varying degrees and quality, for some elective surgical care. Several provinces have quality health councils which are producing reports on the quality of care being received. The Ontario Health Quality Council has released several reports on the performance of Ontario's health system, reporting on nine attributes of a high-performing health system.66 Many of these reports call for the need to accelerate the adoption of electronic health records to acquire better data and properly assess health system performance.
Ontario has been a leader in health care reporting within Canada. Since the early 1990s, the Ontario Cardiac Care Network has been the gold standard for the comparison of cardiac centres on the basis of wait time and crude and risk adjusted mortality and length of stay data.67 In 1997, a research team at the University of Toronto, funded by the Ontario Hospital Association, began developing a hospital report that focused on key areas of hospital activity including patient perceptions of hospitals.68
In 2007, CIHI released Canada-wide Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratios (HSMR) for the first time. The HSMR is the ratio of actual (observed) deaths to expected deaths, and is adjusted for several factors that affect in-hospital mortality.69
Most recently, the Saskatchewan Health Quality Council issued its first Quality Insight report which reports at the health region (and, in some cases, hospital) level on 121 indicators in the areas of chronic diseases (asthma, diabetes, post heart attack), drug management and patient experience.70
The quest to improve quality of care is a dominant issue in European health systems. The UK, Denmark and the Netherlands have all implemented mechanisms to monitor the performance of their health system. Accountability and monitoring instruments in place in these three countries include: ratings of hospitals, ratings of doctors and system performance reports. In addition, the UK has organizations devoted to monitoring and improving the quality of its health care system.
Public reporting on health system performance enjoys high public acceptability. This was the finding of CMA's consultation process for its health care transformation project. Seventy percent of the public surveyed by Ipsos Reid supported independent reviews of hospitals on quality and performance.
National Health Goals were developed by the Government of Canada and approved in a broad consensus by all of the provinces and territories in 2005.71 While there was universal acceptance of these goals at the time, there has been limited action on developing a framework and indicators for monitoring achievements. Comprehensive approaches to population health require coordinated action across governments, supported by a common vision, such as national health goals. The CMA strongly supports the advancement of the National Health Goals agenda and believes that public reporting of supporting indicators reflecting the determinants of health as well as health services and outcomes are an important component of improving the health status of Canadians.72
Improve the accountability of the Canadian health care system by reporting publicly on the performance of the system including outcomes. What is needed is a systemic approach to public reporting that shifts the focus from "blame and shame" to quality improvement.
Progress to date/Next steps
Based on the foregoing, the most likely opportunity for advancing the idea of increased public reporting in the short term will be to work with existing national and provincial/territorial organizations involved in acquiring and analyzing data related to health system performance. At the federal level, the renegotiation of the Health Accord in the lead-up to March 31, 2014 is the best opportunity to see a heightened commitment to improve public reporting at a coordinated federal-provincial-territorial level.
Provincially, Québec's recent budget devoted considerable attention to the issue of system accountability. That government announced the annual publication of health accounts to improve transparency and public awareness on health care spending. The accounts, released with the budget, list health and social services spending and revenues. It also includes a breakdown of health sector resources including the number of physicians and nurses and hospitalization days.
B. Need for system stewardship
To ensure accountability and responsibility, it will be necessary to establish an arm's-length, independent body to monitor, in a transparent manner, the medium to longer-term prospects of the comparability and financing of health care programs for Canada and the provinces and territories.
Since its establishment, Canada's national Medicare program has been a funding partnership between the federal and provincial/territorial governments. Since the mid-1990s, this partnership has been beset by problems, due in part to the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces/territories to administer health programs and to the federal government's unilateral cut to cash transfers of some $6 billion with the implementation of the Canada Health and Social Transfer in 1996.
Three broad concerns have been expressed:
1. Lack of accountability of the provincial/territorial governments for use of health transfer funds: at the provincial level, the reports of both the Ménard (2005)73 and Castonguay (2008)21 commissions in Québec called for the establishment of a health account which would provide accountability for how revenues collected for health are used and to inform the public about issues such as financial sustainability of health programs.
2. Canada is a "patchwork quilt" in terms of the continuum of care: there is increasing concern about the wide variation in the level of services provided across the country. The Canada Health Act program criteria only apply to hospital and medical services, and those represent just 41% of total health spending. There is roughly a further 25% of health spending that is public but there is wide variability across jurisdictions with respect to coverage of broader continuum care, such as home care and prescription drugs. For example, Statistics Canada estimates that there was almost five-fold variation in the proportion of households spending more than 5% of net income on prescription drugs in 2006, ranging from 2.2% in Ontario to 10.1% in PEI.33
3. Canada may not be able to sustain Medicare on a "pay-as-you-go" basis: in 1998 the Auditor General of Canada published a report on the implications of the aging population which projected that government spending on health as a share of GDP could as much as double from its 1996 level of 6.4% to 12.5% by 2031 if it increased at an annual rate of 2% real growth.8
In 1998 the Auditor General recommended that the government produce long range financial projections on the basis of status quo policies and alternatives that would be presented to Parliament. In its response, the government indicated that it would continue its fiscal planning on the basis of setting and meeting short-run targets.
Clearly we need to be able to look beyond year-over-year budgeting and reporting.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has recently published a report on Canada's emerging "structural deficit" that estimated this shortfall will reach a level of $19 billion in 2013-14.74 The Parliamentary Budget Officer's mandate does not extend to the provincial/territorial governments.
While a number of agencies and organizations are doing work related to long-term system sustainability, each is constrained in some manner from carrying out the forward looking cross-jurisdictional analyses that are required.
Establish an arm's-length mechanism to monitor the financing of health care programs for the federal and provincial/territorial levels, to assess the comparability of coverage across jurisdictions, to assess value for money and to make recommendations to governments on the sustainability of the current Medicare program and mechanisms to fund additional programs that cover the continuum of care.
Progress to date/Next steps
At the federal level, the renegotiation of the Health Accord in the lead-up to March 31, 2014 is the best opportunity to see if such a concept could be acceptable at the federal/provincial/territorial level.
The CMA met with federal and provincial auditors general on March 16, 2010 to discuss system accountability and sustainability. The auditors general were very interested in this issue and some anticipate examining the matter in the coming months.
PART 4: AN ACTION PLAN FOR 2010-2014
With the CMA's ambitious triple aim of improving the health of the population at large, patients' health care experience and value for money spent, the transformation of health care will inevitably be a multi-year and multi-pronged initiative.
The first priority has been the release of this document, with its emphasis on adopting a Charter for Patient-centred Care. The final goal is to ensure that the First Ministers' Agreement in 2014 addresses longer-term fundamental issues, such as providing appropriate access to comprehensive pharmaceuticals and continuing care for all Canadians, and implementing a proper accountability framework.
As a multi-year initiative, the CMA will pursue the actions described under the health care transformation directions between now and 2013, in time for the negotiation of the next potential Health Accord expected to take effect after the current 2004 agreement expires.
As previously mentioned, the directions listed do not represent an exhaustive list. Rather, they are intended to serve as a foundation for change that will build momentum for health care transformation leading to better care.
It will be important to demonstrate tangible results - early wins - so that the public, health care providers and system funders can sense the move toward a more patient-focused system and become energized to implement subsequent actions.
Summary timeline of key health care transformation deliverables
Release of Framework and Charter for Patient-centred Care
IT: Federal support for EMRs
Partial Activity-Based Funding
Health human resources - new funding models (physician assistants)
Comprehensive pharmacare/long-term care
PART 5: CONCLUSION
The policy directions contained in this document, while fundamental, do not represent the entire array of possible choices. This document focuses on the "what" of health care transformation. The "how to" of implementation will require considerable further work, tailored to the needs and circumstances of the various jurisdictions and their populations.
Some of the directions in this document are meant to be carried out by government, some by providers, and some by patients. Many, but not all, of the ideas set out in this document will require additional investment by governments. It will not be possible to implement all of these policy directions at the same time. Much of what is outlined here will be put in place at the provincial/territorial level and will be phased in as each jurisdiction deems fit. Provinces and territories must be encouraged to share the lessons they learn as changes are made so that other jurisdictions can build on their successes. Provision must be made for evaluation and mid-course correction to ensure that the proposed directions achieve their intended objectives.
The CMA, our partner provincial/territorial medical associations and the physicians of Canada are committed to inspiring change, for the benefit of the patients we serve and in the interests of our members. The aspirations embodied in this document will foster transformation that allows us to accomplish our goals as physicians - to serve the public, provide for our patients' health needs optimally, and to make our health care system more effective, accountable and sustainable now and for the generations to come.
APPENDIX A - HEALTH CARE FUNDING AND THE SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGE
The ability to pay for health care, which is in competition with all the other legitimate uses for public funds, and the ability to maintain a health workforce are both central to the concept of sustainability. While there is ample evidence that health spending continues to outpace other areas of public expenditure and the growth of government revenue, there is no consensus that we need to act on it. The section notes the necessity of raising funds from private sources if there is no political appetite or public support for increasing public revenues for health.
Other key points in this section:
* Appropriate investments in health care result in improved health, which reduces health care demand in the future by decreasing the burden of illness in the population. Better health and the resultant improved productivity of the population pays economic dividends for the country.
* Given our changing population demographics, governments in Canada will face challenges finding new revenue streams to fund appropriate initiatives such as long-term care, home care or enhanced pharmaceutical coverage over the next two decades.
* A large unfunded liability will be created as a consequence of the need to address our growing, aging population that is increasingly burdened with multiple chronic illnesses. Only recently have a few jurisdictions recognized the unfairness of saddling this economic burden on future generations.
* Overall health spending is consuming a rising proportion of total government program spending. It also is rising faster than the growth in our GDP, so our ability to pay for health care is increasingly in question. Other important societal programs will be increasingly jeopardized in order to pay for health care programs.
* Methods to manage the gap between current levels of expenditure and what will be required to maintain and respond to future health care demands include, a) reducing services and therefore reducing expenditures, b) raising taxes and c) developing new sources of revenue (such as patient co-payments, population health premiums and private insurance).
* Our system and culture relies on the principle of collective risk-pooling so as to lessen individual burden. To sustain health care for current and future Canadians and to expand the basket of required coverage, given our changing demographic reality, creative approaches to managing and funding our health system are necessary.
The ability to pay for health care is increasingly in question. The challenge of sustaining our health care system is what makes it imperative to move forward now with health care transformation. Sustainability in health care may be defined as the ability to deliver universal publicly funded health care services without compromising other government programs or the ability of future generations to pay. In 2001 the Honourable Roy Romanow was tasked by the federal government to study and make recommendations in order to "ensure over the long-term the sustainability of a universally accessible, publicly funded health system." The Romanow Commission put forward 47 recommendations in 2002 with a view to "buying change".75 Similarly, the Kirby Commission in its review of the Canadian health care system recommended an additional $5 billion of federal funding per year to restructure and renew Medicare.17 These reports were followed by additional federal funding in the amounts of $34.8 billion and $41.3 billion in the 200376 and 200444 First Ministers' Accords respectively. Eight years later it is evident that, for the most part, these Accords bought time, not change.
The directions set out in Part 3 of this report rest on two critical assumptions with respect to sustainability. The first is that there is a business case for quality. That is to say, investments in quality today will pay off in improved health that, in turn, will reduce health care demand and expenditures down the road. The resultant improved productivity from the reduction of illness in the population will generate economic dividends for the country.
A second assumption is that timely and appropriate interventions will relieve access bottlenecks currently generating unproductive costs. A study conducted for the CMA in 2008 makes the case: it estimated the cost of excess waiting for four procedures at almost $15 billion.77 Hence, the introduction of activity-based funding for hospitals might not reduce hospital costs in total, but if it increases throughput and timely access there will be offsets in improved quality of life and productivity of the population. Clearly, the gains resulting from these assumptions will not be realized in the short term.
All the numbers on sustainability, including the projections by Desautels and Page (highlighted in Part 1), assume the status quo in terms of publicly funded programs. But the current system is hardly sustainable on a quality of care basis, particularly given the demographic changes that will see fewer working-age Canadians supporting more and more elderly citizens weighed down by drug costs and the need, over time, for nursing home care. Given our changing population demographics, governments in Canada cannot avoid the challenge of finding new revenue streams to fund appropriate initiatives, such as long-term care, home care or enhanced pharmaceutical coverage over the next two decades.
Since the 1990s, there have been repeated recommendations for expanded public coverage of prescription drugs and home care. Health ministers have estimated it would cost $5 billion for governments to provide "catastrophic" pharmaceutical coverage, meaning no household has to spend more than 5% of net income on prescription drugs.78 In contrast, there has been no national policy discussion about the funding of long-term care. Alberta made an exploratory move in this direction in 2005 when it commissioned Aon Consulting to develop health insurance models for continuing care.79 Aon estimated that in order to pre-fund projected costs to 2050, a flat dollar charge of $779 per capita, indexed at 4% per year, would be required for all Albertans aged 16 or over.80 Similarly, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has estimated that long-term care accounted for 1.2% GDP in Canada in 2005 and that, at a minimum, the burden will double to 2.4% by 2050.81 A significant amount of this share will almost certainly be publicly funded.
Canada will soon have to grapple with how to finance a more comprehensive - and expensive - system of health and continuing care. This, in turn, raises issues about intergenerational equity, that is to say the fairness with which the costs of the system are distributed between generations. If these escalating costs are not addressed now, future generations will be unfairly, and possibly untenably, saddled with the burden flowing from today's growing elderly population.
Academics have developed a technique called generational accounting to measure this effect.82 Hagist has applied generational accounting to estimate the revenue gap for health expenditures in six countries. The revenue gap is the percentage increase in taxes that would have to be applied immediately for both living and future generations to bring current fiscal policy on a sustainable track. The same study also estimated a delayed revenue gap, which is the percentage increase that will be required if increases are postponed until 2050. The results for the six countries are shown in Table 1.
[SEE PDF FOR CORRECT DISPLAY OF TABLE INFORMATION]
Estimates of current and delayed revenue gap for health expenditures
Selected countries (% increase)
Delayed Revenue Gap
Source: Hagist, C. Demography and Social Health Insurance. Baden-Baden:Nomos, 2008.
As one can see, significant immediate increases in revenues are required in all six countries and much more drastic increases will be required if action is delayed. Klumpes and Tang have also applied generational accounting to the funding of the UK National Health Service. They found that under the base assumption of a 2% real interest rate, future tax payers will need to contribute about ten-fold what 2005 new tax payers did.83 In Canada, Robson has applied similar methods to estimate the "unfunded liability" that will result from an aging population. He estimates that between 2007 and 2050, provincial and territorial health budgets will experience an aggregate liability of almost $1.9 trillion if things continue along as they are.84
Total health spending in Canada reached an historic high of 11.9% of GDP in 2009. While this reflects, in part, the effect of the recession in lowering GDP, health spending grew by 5.5% in nominal terms and 3.3% in real terms over 2008. Table 2 shows the average percentage increases in health and total program spending from 1999 to 2008 and the most recent experience of the provinces and territories as presented in their 2010-11 budgets.
Health and Program Spending 1999-2008 and
Selected Indicators 2010 Provincial Territorial Budgets
Province / Territory
1999-2008 Average Annual % Increase in Health Spendinga
1999-2008 Average Annual % Increase in Program Spendinga
Health as % Program Spending 2010-11
% Increase in Health Spending 2010-11 over 2009-10
% Increase in Program Spending 2010-11 over 2009-10
% Increase in Revenue 2010-11 over 2009-10
Data sources available upon request
a Source: Canadian Institute for Health Information
b Note the budget also contains an estimate that health is 45% of program spending in 2010-11
c Total health spending by function is estimated at 42.1% of all government spending
The evidence is incontrovertible that health spending has continuously outpaced other areas of public expenditure. All provinces are expecting further health spending increases in 2010-11 - ranging from 3.7% in Québec to 16.6% in Alberta. In eight out of ten provinces, increases in health spending exceed increases in both total program spending and provincial/territorial revenue. As a percentage of program spending, health stands near or just over 45% in six provinces.
Aside from Québec (which is discussed below), few measures have been taken to address the problem. It may well require a province or territory to exceed the psychological barrier of 50% to incite a concerted response. This is suggested by a February 2010 poll done for CMA by Ipsos Reid in which respondents were also asked to estimate the actual, appropriate and maximum proportions of their provincial/territorial budget that are or should be devoted to health. The averages estimated by the public are as follows:
* actual current percentage - 38%
* appropriate percentage - 47%
* maximum percentage - 52%.
The prospect of going beyond the 50% threshold of the share of government program spending on health might be likened to the proverbial "crossing the Rubicon," which means following a course of action on which there is no turning back. To follow the 50%+ trajectory under the current parameters of Medicare, taxes will surely have to increase, either through general taxation or a dedicated health premium or some variant thereof. Another option that would still pool risk would be the establishment of a contributory social insurance fund.
If, however, there is no political appetite or public support for increasing public revenues for health on the basis of universality and risk pooling then we will be faced with options for raising funds from private sources. These could include co-payments for publicly insured services, private insurance or out-of-pocket payment for uninsured/deinsured services, and deductibles linked to utilization.
Québec has been the first among the provinces and territories to acknowledge that the current approach to funding health care is neither sustainable in the long term nor fair to future generations - and to announce measures to address the problem. It has taken three major task forces over the past decade to get to this point. In 2001 the Clair Commission recommended a capitalized (pre-funded) insurance plan to cover loss of autonomy.85 Clair also put forward the idea of the creation of a provincial health insurance corporation apart from the Health Ministry. In 2005 the Ménard Committee again recommended the establishment of an insurance scheme for persons experiencing loss of autonomy, as well as the creation of a health and social services account that would provide transparency and accountability for the sources and uses of funds.73 In 2008 the Castonguay Task Force recommended a dedicated "health stabilization fund" that would be funded in part by a deductible linked to medical visits that would be collected at year-end through the income tax system. Castonguay also recommended a health account.21
In response to these studies, the 2010-11 Québec budget contained the following measures:
* starting July 1, 2010 a health contribution (premium) will be introduced, to be collected through the tax system; starting at $25 per adult, this will increase to $200 by 2012 at which time it is expected to raise $945 million
* further study of the introduction of a health deductible as proposed by Castonguay
* the introduction of an annual health account86
Other jurisdictions will also need to give consideration to options for at least partially pre-funding future health care expenditures.
The findings of the February 2010 survey conducted for CMA by Ipsos Reid suggest that Canadians would prefer an option that would assure that funds raised would be dedicated to health care over an option that would simply add additional funds to the consolidated revenue account (Figure 2).
In considering such options, however, one must be mindful of the current experience with existing mechanisms that are available to Canadians to accumulate savings. According to Canada Revenue Agency Statistics for the 2007 tax year, one in four (26.4%) Canadians with a taxable return reported making a RRSP contribution.87 The likelihood of making RRSP contributions was strongly correlated with income - 15% or fewer with those with incomes less than $25,000 reported one, rising to greater then 60% among those with incomes of $80,000 or greater. There may be greater uptake with the Tax-free Savings Account (TFSA) that was introduced in 2009. A poll done by Ipsos Reid in June 2009 found that 21% of households had opened a TFSA.88 No research has been done on the salience of saving for future health needs as compared to RRSPs and TFSAs.
The CMA's 2006 discussion paper It's About Access: Informing the Debate on Public and Private Health Care provides a comprehensive overview and discussion of the international application and pros and cons of a range of public and private funding options.
It also sets out ten policy principles to guide policy decision-making related to the public-private interface. In brief, these are:
1. Timely Access 6. Quality
2. Equity 7. Professional Responsibility
3. Choice 8. Transparency
4. Comprehensiveness 9. Accountability
5. Clinical Autonomy 10. Efficiency89
We believe that these principles will serve to guide a national debate.
i Derived as the .7023 public share of the estimate of 11.9% of GDP going to total health expenditure.
ii The CMA's 2007 policy statement 'It's still about access! Medicare Plus' sets out comprehensive recommendations for the public-private interface in the delivery and funding of health care.
iii Patients who remain in hospital while waiting for placement in long-term care facilities or for home care arrangements to be made.
1 Department of Justice Canada. Canada Health Act (R.S., 1985, c. C-6). www.laws.justice.gc.ca/PDF/Statute/C/C-6.pdf. Accessed 06/28/2010.
2 Canadian Institute for Health Information. National health expenditure trends 1975 to 2009. Ottawa, 2009.
3 Bowlby G. Studies in "non-standard" employment in Canada. www.wiego.org/reports/statistics/nov-2008/bowlby_presentation_2008.pdf. Accessed 06/28/2010.
4 Conference Board of Canada. How Canada performs 2009: A report card on Canada. www.conferenceboard.ca/HCP/Details/Health.aspx. Accessed 06/27/2010.
5 World Health Organization. World health report 2000. Health systems: Improving performance. Geneva, 2000.
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23 Pink GH, Brown AD, Studer ML, Reiter KL, Leatt P. Pay-for-Performance in publicly financed healthcare: Some international experience and considerations for Canada. Healthcare Papers 2006; 6(4):8-26.
24 PIN is a Manitoba Health and Healthy Living primary care renewal initiative that focuses on fee-for-service (FFS) physician groups. Its goal is to facilitate systemic improvements in the delivery of primary care. See: www.gov.mb.ca/health/phc/pin/index.html
25 Alberta Medical Association President's Letter September 16, 2009. See: www.albertadoctors.org/bcm/ama/ama-website.nsf/AllDoc/4C2E247349659BD58725763300532A11/$File/preslet_sept16_09.pdf
26 British Columbia Medical Association. Full service family practice incentive program: frequently asked questions. Vancouver, 2006.
27 Hall B. Health incentives: the science and art of motivating healthy behaviours. Benefits Quarterly 2008; 24(2):12-22.
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31 Manitoba Health. Manitoba Pharmacare Program. www.gov.mb.ca/health/pharmacare/index.html Accessed 11/02/09.
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41 Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. Towards a sustainable, accessible, quality public health care system. Ottawa, 2009.
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43 Statistics Canada. Population projections: Canada, the province and territories, 2009 to 2036. The Daily, Wednesday, May 26, 2010.
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45 Pyper W. Balancing career and care. Perspectives on Labour and Income 2006;7(11):5-15.
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47 Canadian Healthcare Association. Home Care in Canada: From the margins to the mainstream. Available from: www.cha.ca/documents/Home_Care_in_Canada_From_the_Margins_to_the_Mainstream_web.pdf. Accessed 06/04/2010
48 Canadian Healthcare Association. New Directions for Facility-Based Long Term Care. Available from: www.cha.ca/documents/CHA_LTC_9-22-09_eng.pdf. Accessed 06/04/2010.
49 Smith L. There is nothing for nothing any longer, especially for seniors. The Daily Gleaner. 21 Oct 2009. Available from: dailygleaner.canadaeast.com/rss/article/830881. Accessed 11/10/2009.
50 Special Senate Committee on Aging. Is Canada ready for an aging population? Senate Special Committee on Aging Identifies Serious Gaps for Older Canadians in Canada's Aging Population: Seizing the Opportunity. Available from:
www.parl.gc.ca/40/2/parlbus/commbus/senate/com-e/agei-e/subsite-e/Aging_Report_Home-e.htm. Accessed 06/07/2010
51 Siciliani L, Hurst J. Explaining waiting times for elective surgery across OECD countries. OECD Health Working Papers No 7. Paris, 2003.
52 OECD Health Data 2009, June 2009.
53 Canadian Nurses Association. Tested solutions for eliminating Canada's registered nursing shortage. Ottawa, 2009
54 Nursing Sector Study Corporation (May 2006). Building the Future: An integrated strategy for nursing human resources in Canada, retrieved from www.cna-aiic.ca/CNA/documents/pdf/publications/Phase_II_Final_Report_e.pdf. Accessed 06/09/09.
55 Task Force Two. A physician human resource strategy for Canada: final report. Ottawa, 2006
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57 Health Canada. Government of Canada announces funding to support 15 new family medicine positions for Canada's north. News release. May 10, 2009. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/nr-cp/_2010/2010_72-eng.php. Accessed 06/29/2010.
58 Frank J (ed.) The CanMEDS 2005 Physician Competency Framework. Ottawa: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada;
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60 Canadian Medical Association. CMA Policy on Scopes of Practice. Ottawa, 2001.
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62 Sources: CIHI Reports for Physician visits: Physicians in Canada: Fee-for-Service Utilization 2005-2006. Table 1-21. Hospital contacts: Trends in Acute Inpatient Hospitalizations and Day surgery Visits in Canada 1995-1996 to 2005-2006 and National Ambulatory Care Reporting System: Visit Disposition by Triage Level for All Emergency Visits - 2005-2006.
63 Schoen C, Osborn R, Doty MM, Squires D, Peugh J, Applebaum S. A survey of primary care physicians in eleven countries, 2009: Perspectives on care, costs and experiences. Health Affairs 2009; 28(6):1179-83.
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69 Canadian Institute for Health Information. HSMR: A New Approach for Measuring Hospital Mortality Trends in Canada. secure.cihi.ca/cihiweb/products/HSMR_hospital_mortality_trends_in_canada.pdf. Accessed 06/09/09.
70 Saskatchewan Health Quality Council. Quality Insight, 2008. www.hqc.sk.ca/download.jsp?oLYnotVGsC60FgKBEcq12DBIzBf0QfLQkUwK4QBZaJtXhmSAKqZibA==. Accessed 06/07/10
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HEALTH IN ALL POLICIES
Despite significant investments in health and improvements in medical treatment and technologies, health outcomes in Canada have not been moving in the right direction. Chronic diseases such as diabetes and the corresponding risk factors, among them obesity, continue to rise. This negative health status can undermine not only individual health but the productivity and prosperity of the country as well.1 As noted in the Adelaide Statement on Health in All Policies, "Good health enhances quality of life, improves workforce productivity, increases the capacity for learning, strengthens families and communities, supports sustainable habitats and environments, and contributes to security, poverty reduction and social inclusion."2
Research suggests that 15% of population health is determined by biology and genetics, 10% by physical environments, 25% by the actions of the health care system, with 50% being determined by our social and economic environment.3 Many studies show that people low on the socio-economic scale are likely to carry a higher burden of just about any disease.4 Poverty accounts for 24% of person years of life lost in Canada (second only to 30% for neoplasms).5 These numbers demonstrate a need to rethink the way we work to improve the health of the Canadian population. While a strong health care system is vital, changes to our health system alone will not be sufficient to improve health outcomes or reduce the disparities that currently exist in disease burden and health risks.
Using health determinants as a focus means that most health promotion and prevention efforts will take place outside of the health and medical care service.6 Canadians must be supported to make the choices that keep them healthy and reduce their risks of injury and disease. However, many face barriers in their physical, social and economic environments which make these healthy choices difficult. What is necessary is a coordinated effort across government sectors to ensure that all policy decisions serve to increase opportunities for health. As noted by the former Minister of Health and Welfare, Jake Epp, "it is not an overstatement to say that public policy has the power to provide people with the opportunities for health, as well as to deny them such opportunities... All policies having a direct bearing on health need to be coordinated."7
Improving population health and reducing inequities should be an overall objective for all governments in Canada. Not only will it help to reduce costs to the health system, it will also increase economic growth as healthier people lose fewer days of work and contribute to overall economic productivity.8 As laid out in the principles to Guide Health Care Transformation, "Coordinated investments in health promotion and disease and injury prevention, including attention to the role of the social determinants of health, are critical to the future health and wellness of Canadians and to the viability of the health care system.9"
The utilization of such an approach is not new. Governments from England to Finland to New Zealand have increasingly recognized the importance of the social determinants of health and have developed national strategies accordingly. These strategies, often referred to as 'health in all policies,' call for a whole of government approach where cross-departmental collaboration is established at the highest government level to increase the health of the population and reduce inequalities.10 The World Health Organization defines health in all policies as follows:
Health in all Policies (HiAP) is an approach to public policies across sectors that systematically takes into account the health and health systems implications of decisions, seeks synergies, and avoids harmful health impacts, in order to improve population health and health equity. A HiAP approach is founded on health-related rights and obligations. It emphasizes the consequences of public policies on health determinants, and aims to improve the accountability of policy-makers for health impacts at all levels of policy-making.11
This approach looks at all policies that have a health impact not just those in the health sector. Policies are reviewed for their potential impact on population health and health system utilization.12
There are many ways that a HiAP approach can be implemented. Examples include:
inter-ministerial and inter-departmental committees; community consultations and Citizens' Juries; cross-sector action teams; partnership platforms; integrated budgets and accounting; Health Lens Analyses; cross-cutting information and evaluation systems; impact assessments; joined-up workforce development; and legislative frameworks.13
A Plan for Canada
Role of the Federal Government:
While the provinces and territories have constitutional authority for the majority of health system delivery, the federal government has a significant role in health: through system oversight, Canada Health Act; delivery to certain populations, Canada's Aboriginal peoples; as well as accountability and pan-Canadian initiatives for the various health systems. Additionally, the federal government has significant control over areas such as taxation, food security and agriculture, justice, transportation safety and income security (eg child tax benefits, Old- Age Security). All of these can have a marked impact on both individual and population health.
As a result of these responsibilities the Canadian government needs to adopt a clear mandate to focus on the health of the population. Actions must be taken to provide Canadians with the ability to make healthy choices. All legislation must be subject to a health lens to determine potential health implications so as to minimize or mitigate any negative consequences and maximize opportunities for health benefits. Given the central coordinating function of Cabinet in policy setting and delivery, this would be an ideal place to incorporate a HiAP approach.
1. CMA recommends that the federal government acknowledge the relationship of the social determinants of health on the health of the population as well as the demands of the health care system and that it implement a Health in All Policies approach for all cabinet decision-making.
While Cabinet should serve as the central decision-making body for a HiAP approach, there must be formal and sustainable structures that allow timely analysis of the health consequences of policy decisions, which appropriately engage stakeholders, and which ensure that health impacts are actually considered in policy decision-making.14
Such an approach will require some form of enabling legislation as well as benefits for departments that conduct HiAP analysis. In Quebec, for example, all policies are required to undergo a review of health impacts under Section 54 of the 2002 Quebec Public Health Act.15
In addition, it is likely that a lead agency will need to be appointed to facilitate the necessary data collection/analysis to review policies. In the Netherlands health impact assessments are the responsibility of the Department of Intersectoral Policy at the Netherlands School of Public Health.16 Since 2000, the Swedish National Public Health Institute (SNIPH) has been tasked with developing methodology in strategically important areas and with supporting the application of health assessments on the central, regional and local level.17 In England, the Public Health Observatories play a key role in providing data and analysis for health impact assessments.18
A significant barriers to HiAP in Canada is the existing data infrastructure. Hundreds of major and minor publications speak to the volume of analyses undertaken on health and health systems every year in Canada. Despite this effort, Canadian policy makers and the public do not fully understand how health system vs. non-health factors contribute to the health outcomes observed or the picture of overall health. The available data tends to focus on the health care system, sickness and the measurement of sickness related risks. What is missing is a way of organizing the data which provides greater insight for planners and greater accountability for all Canadians. This capacity will need to be developed in order to properly implement a HiAP approach.
2. CMA recommends that the federal government provide the necessary enabling environment to allow for the application of a health in all policies approach in all new policy development.
As the experiences from other countries demonstrate there is some value in selecting a few Ministries to begin the process. Once selected the Ministries should be responsible for starting the process and screening any new policies. If there is a potential health impact they would then contact the centralized resource to conduct the analysis and produce a report with potential impacts and recommendations for change. This report would go back to the originating Ministry for review and modification of the policy as necessary. Changes should be highlighted and the revised policy should be sent with the health analysis report to Cabinet for final decision-making. This will help to improve the policy and will create greater awareness among all Cabinet members of the potential health implications of various policies.
3. CMA recommends that the Federal Minister of Health work with Cabinet to select appropriate Ministries to begin the implementation of the health in all policies approach.
Role of Health Care Sector:
Government is not the only group with a role in HiAP. The health sector, including Canada's physicians can work to ensure that the policy environment promotes health. By working with governments at all levels, physicians can uses their vast knowledge and expertise to provide evidence regarding potential health implications, and promote the development of evidence-informed decision making. In addition, they can work with partners both within and outside of the health sector to advocate as necessary for policy improvements.19
4. CMA recommends that physicians and other health care providers use their knowledge and expertise to support governments in the development of evidence-informed policy which promotes the health of the population.
Investments in the health system will only go so far in improving the health of the population. Population health approaches must tackle the wider social determinants of health. To do so the government must consider health in all the policies that it develops.
1 Reeves, Richard A Liberal Dose? Health and Wellbeing - the Role of the State: An Independent Report. 2010. Available: www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/@ps/documents/digitalasset/dh_111695.pdf
2 World Health Organizatio. Adelaide Statement on Health in All Policies: moving toward a shared governance for health and well-being. Geneva:The Organization; 2010. Available: www.who.int/social_determinants/hiap_statement_who_sa_final.pdf (accessed 2015 Apr 16).
3 Keon, WJ, Pépin L. (2008) Population Health Policy: Issues and Options. Ottawa: The Senate of Canada; 2008. Available at: www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/392/soci/rep/rep10apr08-e.pdf
4 Dunn JR. The Health Determinants Partnership Making Connections Project: Are Widening Income Inequalities Making Canada Less Healthy? Toronto :The Health Determinants Partnership; 2002 Available: http://en.healthnexus.ca/sites/en.healthnexus.ca/files/resources/widening_income_equalities.pdf (accessed 2015 Apr 16)
5 Wilkins R, Berthelot J-M, Ng E. Trends in mortality by neighbourhood income in urban Canada from 1971 to 1996. Statistics Canada.Health Rep. 2002:13(Supplement): 10.
6 Knutsson I, Linell A Health impact assessment developments in Sweden. Scand J Public Health. 2010;38:115-120.
7 Epp, J. Achieving health for all: a framework for health promotion. Ottawa: Health and Welfare Canada; 1986. Available: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/pubs/system-regime/1986-frame-plan-promotion/index-eng.php
8 Munro, D Healthy People, Healthy Performance, Healthy Profits: The Case for Business Action on the Socio-Economic Determinants of Health. Ottawa: Conference Board of Canada; 2008.Available: www.conferenceboard.ca/Libraries/NETWORK_PUBLIC/dec2008_report_healthypeople.sflb
9 Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Nursese Association. Principles for Health Care Transformation in Canada. Ottawa: The Associations; 2011. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD11-13.pdf
10 St-Pierre L. Governance Tools And Framework For Health In All Policies. Available: www.rvz.net/uploads/docs/Achtergrondstudie_-_Governance_tools_and_framework1.pdf
11 World Health Organization, Government of South Australia. Adapted from WHO Working Definition prepared for the 8Th Global Conference on Health Promotion, Helsinki, 10-14 June 2013.
12 Ollila E, Baum F, Pe ña S. Introduction to health in all policies and the analytical framework of the book. In Leppo K, Ollila E, Pera S, et al., editors. Health in all policies: seizing opportunities, implementing policies. Chap. 1. Finland: Ministry of Social Affairs and Health; 2013. Available: www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/188809/Health-in-All-Policies-final.pdf.
13 World Health Organization, Government of South Australia. Adelaide Statement on Health in All Policies: moving towards a shared governance for health and well-being. Geneva: The Organization; 2010. Available: www.who.int/social_determinants/hiap_statement_who_sa_final.pdf (accessed October 18, 2014)
14 Rudolph, L, Caplan J, Mitchell C, et al. Health in All Policies: Improving Health Through Intersectoral Collaboration. Washington(DC): Institute of Medicine. Available: www.phi.org/uploads/application/files/q79jnmxq5krx9qiu5j6gzdnl6g9s41l65co2ir1kz0lvmx67to.pdf (accessed October 21, 2014).
15 National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy. Implementation of Sectin 54 of Quebec's Public Health Act. Quebec: The Centre; 2012. Available at: www.ncchpp.ca/docs/Section54English042008.pdf
16 Wright, J, Parry J, Scully EInstitutionalizing policy-level health impact assessment in Europe: Is coupling health impact assessment with strategic environmental assessment the next step forward? Bull World Health Orga. 2005;83(6):472-7
17 Knutsson I, Linell A Health impact assessment developments in Sweden. Scand J Public Health. 2010;38(2):115-20
18 St-Pierre L. Governance Tools And Framework for health in all policies. Available: www.rvz.net/uploads/docs/Achtergrondstudie_-_Governance_tools_and_framework1.pdf
19 Leppo K, Tangcharoensathien V. The health sector's role in HiAP. In Leppo K, Ollila E, Pera S, et al., editors. Health in all policies: seizing opportunities, implementing policies. Chap. 14. Finland: Ministry of Social Affairs and Health; 2013.
Available: www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/188809/Health-in-All-Policies-final.pdf. (accessed October 18, 2014)