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Health Care Needs to Do Things Differently – For The Sake of Competitiveness and Prosperity

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Commenting on Quebec and Ontario’s recent physician negotiations the Globe & Mail’s Andre Picard had this to say, “the provinces and the doctors need to find new ways of doing things … what’s required is a new social contract with a common goal – better patient care – not a black-and-white labour contract that gets revised in an incendiary war every couple of years.”

This view echoed the Hon. Warren Winkler, conciliator for Ontario’s fee negotiations with the Ontario Medical Association, who reported that “without systemic changes to the health care system, the Parties seemed to be on a collision course so that a[n agreement], at some point in the future, may not be achievable.”

For over 15 years Ontario’s health care spending has been growing by well over 3 per cent, mostly because of increases to physician payments and drug costs, according to Roger Martin’s Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity. Meanwhile, Ontario’s provincial revenues have only grown by 2 per cent and all other social programs – education, social services, transportation and communication – grown at 1.5 per cent or less.

In other words, if Ontario and other provinces facing similar patterns don’t do things differently in health care, we’ll squeeze out the public programs that are the backbone of competitiveness and prosperity.

So what can be done differently? Individuals empowered with information technology have transformed most industries this century. But health care has lagged behind this revolution. What about all that investment in electronic medical records, you ask? Well, most of that has just digitized business-as-usual.

Over 80 per cent of health and wellness for people with chronic disease is attributed to their medication adherence, nutrition and physical activity. Yet we have invested little to nothing on information technologies that help patients and their families to better manage these factors.

Technologies that empower individuals and their families to achieve healthier lifestyles, and to become true partners with their professional care teams hold the greatest promise for people to live longer healthier lives without perpetuating unsustainable spending increases.

Real dialogue among physicians and provincial bureaucracies about how to do this will serve taxpayers better than more divisive black and white debates over billing rates.