It seems as though everyone is lobbying the new Prime Minister on Twitter and Facebook for their own pet promise from the election campaign and, on the day he and his cabinet are sworn in, I would like to add my own request to the clamour. I will warn readers that I am not asking for any grandiose reworking of our existing system. Many are already tweeting and lobbying for that. I am asking for two practical things that would make patients’ care better.
One of the things that Trudeau has promised is to undertake infrastructure investment so there is no better time, in my view, to consider investing in infrastructure for health. Those of us who work in healthcare know that, in this era of governments cutting back on health spending, many hospitals are neglecting upgrades or replacement of aging infrastructure. In fact, anyone who has visited a hospital lately can likely attest to the fact that the infrastructure that supports healthcare is crumbling. Hospitals are naturally choosing patient care over roof repair.
There are two health infrastructure projects that I would like to recommend for Justin Trudeau’s consideration. (I am referring to him casually since that is what most people are doing on Twitter and Facebook and, hey, we’re all friends now, right?)
The first project is the health care infrastructure for long-term care facilities. This proposal was introduced by the Canadian Medical Association in 2012- 2013 for the pre-budget consultations. The CMA recommended that the government invest in both new long-term care facilities as well as in renovations to existing facilities. This recommendation recognized that there was a need to build capacity for long-term care services, a need that still exists today. Their vision was for long-term care residences, assisted living units and “other innovative residential models”. An example of the latter was outlined just yesterday in the Ottawa Citizen: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/seniors-hub-will-be-a-radical-social-innovation There is no reason that this model cannot be replicated in other parts of Canada as well. Those who are interested in the full Canadian Medical Association Proposal can find it here: https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/Health-Infrastructure_en.pdf An investment in long-term care facilities has the potential to save thousands of dollars in hospital costs and it will ensure a better life for Canada’s seniors.
My second request is for a fully functional, portable, all-the-bells-and-whistles (technical language) electronic health record (EHR). I want the electronic health record to be accessible to me, to my regular care providers and to any care providers who have to see me on an urgent basis. I want every new test result, every new consultation and each changed prescription to be recorded immediately. It would be great if my care provider could update the information almost effortlessly.
In my view, there is absolutely no reason that the cost of such an impressive tool should not be paid for as health infrastructure since it will pay for itself. I think it might even pay for itself quickly in savings realized from avoiding duplication of tests, savings from e-prescribing and savings from the efficiencies that could be gained from such a foolproof tool. The full benefits of an electronic health record can be found on the website of Canada Health Infoway: https://www.betterhealthtogether.ca/digital-health-in-canada/the-benefits-for-you/diagnosis-and-treatment
Over half the medical practices in Canada are now using an electronic health record but most of these electronic records do not communicate with each other. For example, I have an electronic health record at my hospital but, if my patient is seen in the emergency room at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), I must wait for a letter by fax or mail sent from CHEO’s electronic health record to know what happened from the perspective of the staff of CHEO.
Also, these electronic health records are not easy to use. I have had to have courses on using the EHR at my hospital and that at CHEO.
I know it’s asking for a lot but I would like to ask Justin Trudeau to get the electronic health record problem solved. It has to be secure, but readily accessible. It should be possible to access the information it contains from anywhere and update automatically to ensure easy follow-up from one interaction to the next. If this sounds like too tall an order for the healthcare sector, then I respectfully suggest that we ask the banks for help. Everything I want in a health record already exists for my financial records, and I can carry the whole thing around with me in one little plastic card.
These, then, are my requests for healthcare infrastructure. As Justin Trudeau and his new Cabinet are sworn in, I join millions of Canadians wondering whether this, or any, government can live up to those first expectations.