Opinion

Letnick: B.C. can provide even better health care outcomes

I have stated before that I believe our publicly funded health care system is our commitment to each other as Canadians.

I’ve observed and written about our health care system for years. Through all the successes and failures, I’ve concluded that British Columbia may have some of the best health outcomes in the country but we can do better. Doctors, nurses, social workers, patients and others who play a role want better health outcomes for those struggling with health issues, including our most vulnerable.

The provincial government is committed to improving outcomes. One of the ways we can do this through the Select Standing Committee on Health.

The committee is helping us have a better accounting of the health care system, which we need in order to make good decisions for the benefit of all.

The system requires billions in public and private capital and operating spending, as well as hundreds of thousands of people who have been called to serve.

Advocacy groups constantly vie for attention from the public and politicians to improve the conditions for those they represent and, hopefully, the population as a whole.

Our system was primarily designed for patients who need intense, episodic care for incidents such as broken bones, car accidents and heart attacks.

Advances in technology—especially in diagnostic imaging and pharmaceuticals—has been shifting our system’s focus to those of us with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, COPD, cardio-vascular disease and Alzheimer’s, to name but a few. The good news is we are living longer. The bad news is some of us are living longer but with greater, more expensive health care needs.

Our system won’t collapse under the weight of boomers, the huge segment of the population who have reached the age where they require more health care services.

Technology and innovation at the Ministry of Health is helping the system embrace this shift in demographics.

But while we have made significant progress in maintaining the sustainability of our publicly funded health care system, there are still fiscal and service challenges on the horizon.

The provincial Standing Committee on Health, made up of members from both political parties and representing a cross section of all British Columbians, is at work trying to identify how we can achieve, in five or more years, an approach known as the “Triple Aim.”

The Triple Aim was coined by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement—a non-profit organization with a mandate to improve care services worldwide. This approach focuses on three things: making changes in the health-care system that improve the overall health of our population, enhancing the experience and outcomes of patients, and achieving the best outcomes for our health dollar.

The committee has reached the point in the process where it is asking the public for ideas on how we can best manage critical challenges to our publicly funded health system.

I know many of you are keen to offer your recommendations. I encourage you to offer your thoughts about the challenges ahead and how we can achieve the Triple Aim.

While the issues the committee will seek input on may differ, here are some of the questions I hope to receive answers to:

It’s now time for British Columbia to have a grown up discussion on health. Time for us all—armchair health experts and health professionals alike, employed or retired—to use our collective wisdom to help improve the lives of our fellow Canadians and improve the sustainability of the system that helps define Canada.

• How do we achieve a healthier population?

• How do we improve health and health services in rural BC?

• How do we better meet the needs of patients with mental illness and/or addictions?

• How do we reduce the number of citizens with multiple chronic illnesses and the severity of those illnesses?

• How do we reduce the number and severity of frail citizens including those with dementia?

• How do we improve end of life care?

• How do we maximize patient independence and quality of life for people with chronic conditions?

• How do we continue to reduce waits for Emergency, diagnostics, and elective surgeries?

• How do we achieve improved health service quality and appropriateness?

• How do we improve access to health services on weekends, evenings, & holidays other than through the Emergency Department?

• How do we best support unpaid caregivers to the frail elderly?

• How do we continue reducing the number of hospitalizations, and average length of stay?

• How do we reduce the fiscal impact of both general and health related inflation on government’s ability to provide health services?

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