Canadian consumers demand more patient-centred healthcare: HealthCast report

Shifting demographics force Canada's health professionals to look at how they integrate resources and technology to meet changing needs, according to PwC survey

TORONTO, April 20 /CNW/ - A growing and aging population, more people living with chronic disease, and inconsistent service delivery, due in part to financial and workforce shortages, are placing increased pressure on the healthcare system in Canada. This is according to the HealthCast series of reports on health industry trends published by the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Health Research Institute and the supplementary Canadian Compendium from PwC Canada. The latest research includes insight from 3,500 consumers around the world, including 500 Canadians, as well as 815 global health leaders and experts (85 in Canada).

What did Canadian consumers say?

While three quarters of Canadians responded that they believe they are in very good or excellent health (compared to 64% of consumers from the rest of the world), aspects of the nation's current healthcare system have Canadians feeling uneasy.

Indeed, concerns over uneasiness about the availability of and access to healthcare services are more acute for Canadians than those in the rest of the world. Of the 11 developed countries included in the 2007 Commonwealth Fund International Survey, Canada ranked second last on the availability of after-hours primary care. The HealthCast survey also identified shorter wait times as a vital need despite numerous initiatives addressing wait time concerns currently underway throughout Canada.

"To ensure Canadians get the healthcare they deserve, including better access, high-quality care and a sustainable system, transformation of our current healthcare system is urgently needed," says Barbara Pitts, associate partner and leader of the Ontario Health Services Advisory practice for PwC. "Innovations in treatment increasingly point to the need for a customized approach to prevention, diagnosis, care and cure."

Key consumer findings include:

    
    -  Forty-two percent of Canadians who responded to the survey indicated
       that immediate access to a doctor or healthcare provider is
       top-of-mind in their definition of "quality" healthcare, compared to
       only 30% globally.

    -  When it comes to specialized care, Canadians have a much harder time
       accessing specialist physicians than the rest of the world. Almost
       half said it was difficult to see a specialist, compared to only 29%
       of global respondents.

    -  Canadians rely heavily on their physicians as a source of medical
       information. In fact, 72% said they prefer to go to the doctor's
       office to obtain information about their personal health? the rest of
       the world reported similar results.

    -  Consumers also want silos to be broken down in healthcare. Two-thirds
       of global consumers surveyed said coordinated clinical teams are
       important to them, similar to 60% of Canadian consumers.
    

"Coordinated healthcare and better access to information will empower people to take more responsibility for their own health. A strong healthcare system should be well-integrated to ensure that when individuals are cared for by more than one provider in the system, a proper flow of information among providers and the patient is in place," says Ms. Pitts.

Physical activity and the cost of healthcare were among the other key concerns. Nearly three quarters of Canadians said not having to worry about financial considerations in healthcare was most important to them. But while concern over getting sufficient exercise is shared by Canadian and global respondents alike, Canadians worry less about financing future healthcare needs than those in the rest of the world. This may be attributed to the fact that Canadian medical coverage covers medically necessary services.

The perspective from Canadian healthcare experts and leaders

As Canadian consumers demand more patient-centred care, Canadian leaders are being forced to take a look at how they integrate technologies, people and other stakeholders to meet the demand for this growing trend. The survey found that the top three components of "quality" for Canadian leaders, in line with leaders worldwide, were reduced medical errors, immediate access, and affordability.

Overwhelmingly, Canadian leaders feel the country needs more doctors and nurses. But while 79% of leaders around the world thought an increased supply of nurses would make their system more efficient, the majority of Canadian leaders favoured adding both nurses and doctors.

Key findings from healthcare leaders and experts include:

    
    -  Doctors from other countries are seen as a rich resource in Canada.
       Seventy percent of Canadian leaders surveyed identified relaxation of
       country restrictions on foreign medical graduates (FMGs) as most
       likely to affect the health system in the next five years.

    -  Seventy-two percent of Canadian leaders said that the country is
       delivering more access to care in the home. This compares favourably
       to the rest of the world, where only half of leaders pointed to better
       home care in their country.

    -  The population is well served in hospitals and clinics offering acute
       care. But 84% of Canadian leaders said healthcare in the future should
       focus on redistribution of resources toward funding wellness and
       preventative care, similar to the rest of the world.

    -  While optimism is fairly high that electronic medical records (EMRs)
       will be the norm in Canada in five years, information technology has
       been slow to take hold in Canada. While 21% of global leaders say EMRs
       have taken on an increasing presence in their healthcare systems, only
       16% of Canadian leaders perceived an increasing use of EMRs.
    

"Canadian health leaders are looking at innovation and how it brings down costs and adds value," says Ms. Pitts. However innovation can also extend beyond technology or new investments that affect cost centres and can instead be as simple as installing a new TV in a patient waiting lounge. There are low-cost solutions that are new ways of solving a problem. So think of innovation beyond technology, or large scale projects so that it is more evolutionary than revolutionary."

Ms. Pitts concludes, "Customizing care to the individual takes health systems out of their comfort zones, forcing them to integrate people, technologies and organizations that are not part of their current routines. Consumers, government, healthcare providers and the healthcare industry will all need to pull together and partner to move Canada's healthcare agenda forward."

Methodology

The latest research from the PwC Health Research Institute (HRI) provides rich insight from 3,500 consumers around the world, including 500 Canadians, as well as 590 global health leaders (50 in Canada). In-depth interviews were conducted with 225 top executives in government, hospital systems, insurance companies, physician groups, pharma and life science companies and technology firms in 50 countries, including 35 Canadian experts.

For more information and to read the full HealthCast global insights report and Canadian Compendium, please visit www.pwc.com/ca/healthcast.

About PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

PricewaterhouseCoopers (www.pwc.com) provides industry-focused assurance, tax and advisory services to build public trust and enhance value for its clients and their stakeholders. More than 163,000 people in 151 countries across our network share their thinking, experience and solutions to develop fresh perspectives and practical advice. In Canada, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (www.pwc.com/ca) and its related entities have more than 5,300 partners and staff in offices across the country.

"PricewaterhouseCoopers" refers to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership, or, as the context requires, the PricewaterhouseCoopers global network or other member firms of the network, each of which is a separate legal entity.

SOURCE PwC

For further information: For further information: Kiran Chauhan, (416) 947-8983, kiran.chauhan@ca.pwc.com; Jessica Draker, (416) 869-8723, jessica.l.draker@ca.pwc.com

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