Five Changes I Would Make to the Canadian Healthcare System
(This article was originally published for the Canadian Healthcare Network)
This week I'm going to pretend that I'm the Wizard of Oz and that I can wave my magic wand and change five things about the Canadian healthcare system. Or maybe I would rather be Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. Either way, if I could wave a magic wand and improve five things about our healthcare system, here's what I would do:
1. Make all physicians become hospital employees. I know that this would not be a popular decision amongst physicians but the amount of time and energy spent trying to get physician engagement for certain initiatives is enormous. It's very difficult to make some of the necessary changes to a healthcare institution when the leadership must not only deal with different unions, but also physicians who don't even work for the organization.
2. Increase the pay of senior healthcare leaders. This might be an unpopular decision with the taxpayers and the government, but how do we expect to attract great people to healthcare if we pay them so much less than other industries? How much would someone in the private sector get paid to run a $250 million company? A lot. So why are we penalizing people who come into healthcare? They should be rewarded because of the amount of risk and public scrutiny they take on when accepting a senior leadership role.
3. Roll out electronic medical records across the country. It still amazes me that we have technology that can perform major surgery without an incision yet we can't seem to make electronic medical records work. There are organizations that are doing it successfully, so learn from their approach. Instead of trying to do it all at once, why not start with one geographical area and then grow outwards from there by adding new clinics and hospitals in a very disciplined way?
4. Give patients more access to information. This is tied to #3, but we need to involve the patient and their families more in the process. Patients should know what their treatment plan is, why it was developed that way, and who will be treating them. If we really want to improve the patient experience, then we need to remove as many unknowns as possible. Why is there a veil of silence around what we tell patients? People fear the unknown so if we can educate patients on treatment plans and diagnoses, they will take ownership of their own care.
5. Make the entire spectrum of care work. We hear too many stories of patients leaving hospitals and not knowing the next step of care or patients not getting the follow-up care they need. We need all of the healthcare institutions to work together and worry less about assigning blame when mistakes are made and more about developing methods to ensure those mistakes never happen. A more holistic view of care will ensure that no patients fall through the cracks.
There are heroic efforts going on every day to make all of these things work together, but I find that we are sometimes focused too much on the individual situations and activities and lose sight of the big picture.
If you had a magic wand, what would you change about our healthcare system?