News at Medicine - May 2011 - Progress Report 2011: Health care renewal in Canada

Progress Report 2011: Health care renewal in Canada
May 31, 2011
The Health Council of Canada has released Progress Report 2011: Health care renewal in Canada, highlighting the progress being achieved to date on wait times, pharmaceuticals management, electronic health records, teletriage, and health care innovation since 2003.

This report on Canada's health care performance is a pan-Canadian look at five key commitments of the 2003 First Ministers' Accord on Health Care Renewal and the 2004 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care.

Key findings on the five accord commitments include:

Wait times: Governments have implemented comprehensive wait time reduction strategies for certain agreed upon procedures. As a result, 8 in 10 Canadian patients are treated within accepted benchmarks for these priority procedures. The next step is to achieve consistent timely care for all patients and to apply benchmarks beyond the five priority procedures.

Pharmaceuticals management: Progress on the national pharmaceuticals strategy has stalled. Individual jurisdictions have taken separate action to expand coverage, to bring down generic drug prices, to increase pharmacists' scope of practice, and to put drug information systems in place.

Electronic health records (EHR): An electronic health record is available for almost 50% of Canadians. This does not include electronic medical record systems in doctors offices - where Canada rates quite low. Further investment is required.

Teletriage: Almost all jurisdictions offer 24/7 telephone access to a primary health care provider and health information for their residents.

Health innovation: The federal government continues to invest in health innovation but more investment will be required if Canada is going to improve its standing as a mid-level performer.

Progress, to date, has been varied across jurisdictions. The report recognized that in 2003 and 2004 the provincial, territorial, and federal governments promised broad solutions but the Accords themselves contained few concrete targets. This has allowed each individual government to identify their own priorities to meet the needs of their citizens. Overall, the report concluded that progress has been made but more can be done to ensure all Canadians share in the improvements.

"We are optimistic with the progress made to date. All 14 jurisdictions - essentially separate health care systems unto themselves - have made significant progress in select areas, depending on their own priorities," said Dr. Jack Kitts, Chair of the Health Council of Canada. "To achieve the full promise of the Accords, we need all governments working together."

The report also calls for better health management strategies. Where jurisdictions have comprehensive strategies in place - complete with meaningful targets and measurable goals - better progress appears to have been made.

"Adoption of a basic management strategy with clear goals will lead to sustained progress. Using this approach, Canadians can hold their governments accountable for achieving their commitments," said John G. Abbott, CEO of the Health Council of Canada. "For example, wait times could be the success story of the Accords. Evidence-based benchmarks for select procedures were set in 2005. Most provinces now provide patients with detailed information on wait times online. Furthermore, governments are either meeting their commitments or explaining any shortcomings - which in itself, is progress."

Progress Report 2011: Health care renewal in Canada describes overall progress in Canada highlighting examples of how progress has been achieved. The Health Council website provides additional details about each of the provincial and territorial governments' progress to date.