Author: John Sinclair, CPHIMS-CA, President Novari Health
Every few years the well-respected Commonwealth Fund publishes a comparative analysis of the performance of the healthcare systems in 11 industrialized countries (Canada, Australia, U.S.A., United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, France, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland). Areas of comparison include access to care, care processes, administrative efficiency, equity and healthcare outcomes. Most Canadians will be surprised to learn that compared to these peer countries our healthcare system ranks second last, with the United States claiming the last place overall ranking.
In the all-important category of access to care, Canada places 9th. In the report, access to care is defined by affordability and timeliness, each of which are broken down into further sub-categories. At Novari, we focus exclusively on the timeliness aspect of access; it is within our grasp to achieve impactful and lasting change in this category. Within timeliness, factors such as Canadians’ access to primary care, emergency department wait times, surgical wait times and access to long term care beds are of concern. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation.
Canada’s exceptionally poor access to care performance is not due to a lack of spending. Both The Netherlands (1st place) and Norway (2nd place) spend less as a percentage of their gross domestic production (GDP) on their healthcare systems than we do in Canada. As the report shows, failing to address access to care has deleterious effects on “Health Outcomes”, a category in which Canada also ranks second to last. Once a patient arrives where they need to be, Canada ranks well (fourth) for “Care Process”, but we need to get patients in the door.
Improving access to care for Canadians is complex and requires a willingness of the provincial healthcare systems to innovate and implement models of care like central intake. It requires the implementation of modern web-based access to care and wait list technologies to ensure that patients are seen by the right healthcare provider at the right time and at the right place. Decision-makers need real-time data to inform resource allocation, and communication channels need to be simple and transparent so care teams have immediate access to the information they need to move patients efficiently through the system.
Novari Health has helped hospitals, regional health authorities and ministries of health innovate and implement technologies with our access to care platform. There is still much to be done, but the work has already begun.