Last week I attended the Conference Board of Canada’s Summit on Sustainable Health and Health Care. Leaders from all spectrums of health care were present, including organizations, companies, health ministries and authorities, providers, and patients. Daniel Muzyka, President and CEO of the Conference Board of Canada opened with the statement that we should all be committed to having the best health care system and the healthiest population.
Several speakers indicated that Canada does well in acute care, primarily because our public health care system has been built around hospitals, doctors and curing illness. Where we are ailing is in the areas of access, chronic disease management, community care, and care for our elderly. It was said repeatedly that the U.S. should not be our comparator, as the U.S. system is much different from ours and they are often lagging much further behind other countries in terms of health care sustainability. Canadian comparisons are better made to other countries with similar health care systems that are high performing.
André Picard spoke about transforming health care in Canada. He indicated that Canada has the least effective, least efficient, and least accessible system in the world (not including the U.S.). He said in order to move forward, we need to have goals and outcomes and define sustainability as not just maintaining the status quo, but determining the priorities for moving forward, and striving for innovation.
Anna Reid, the president elect of the Canadian Medical Association talked about the social determinants of health as being crucial. She said we need to focus on vulnerable populations to eliminate health disparities – a sentiment that was echoed in other presentations.
Hélène Campbell, a 21-year-old double lung transplant recipient gave an inspiring talk about her experiences in the health care system and how social media gave her a platform to advocate for organ and tissue donation. Her advice to health care leaders was to use patient stories as an impetus for change, to tackle issues one small thing at a time, and to keep communication among providers, patients, and families moving forward.
The lack of health innovation in Canada was addressed by a panel of experts who encouraged Canadians to find opportunities to innovate at a system level. At the Health Council, we recently launched our health innovation portal which features innovative practices in health care across Canada. It’s there for everyone to share and learn from.
This summit provided an opportunity to learn about current research and hear different perspectives on how health care can be sustained and improved upon in Canada. We’ll draw upon the many insights gained at the summit to inform our ongoing work on health care reform.