Yukon Joins with Canada's New Government to Announce Patient Wait Times Guarantee



    YELLOWKNIFE, April 11 /CNW Telbec/ - The Honourable Tony Clement, Federal
Minister of Health, and the Honourable Brad Cathers, Yukon Minister of Health
and Social Services, today announced that Yukon has agreed to establish a
Patient Wait Times Guarantee for mammography. Federal budget funding of
$4.5 million will go towards supporting the mammography wait time guarantee,
and other ways to improve access and reduce wait times. Yukon will also be
eligible to benefit from the $400 million in new funding for Canada Health
Infoway, and the $30 million for pilot projects as announced in Budget 2007.
    "We are proud that Yukon is among the territories and provinces who have
each taken up Canada's New Government's offer to move forward and initiate a
Wait Times Guarantee, which is the next logical step and next important
advance in Canada's healthcare," said Minister Clement.
    As a small jurisdiction, Yukon faces unique challenges in providing
timely health care services to its citizens. Nonetheless, as part of Yukon's
broader efforts to address those challenges, it has committed to a mammography
wait time guarantee. The Government of Yukon will undertake pilot projects to
improve timely access to mammography which will assist in laying the
groundwork for the establishment of a guarantee in February 2010.
    "In Yukon, we are working hard to provide Yukon residents with effective,
sustainable health care in a timely and appropriate way. Mammography screening
is an important tool for the early detection of breast cancer. We are pleased
to work toward the establishment of a wait time guarantee for this service"
said Minister Cathers. "We will also use the opportunity of this funding to
improve access in other priority areas for Yukoners, and further details will
be available at a later date."
    This announcement marks another step forward by Canada's New Government
as it continues to work towards ensuring that all Canadians receive medically
necessary care and treatment within clinically acceptable wait times.
    Canada's New Government is providing up to $612 million in a Patient Wait
Times Guarantee Trust, and $400 million for health information technology
through Infoway, an organization which is making significant progress in
working with provinces and territories to implement electronic health records.
In addition to these investments, $30 million over three years will go to
provinces and territories for pilot projects related to establishing
guarantees.
    "Canadians want their territorial, provincial and federal governments to
work together to ensure that timely treatment is available for them and their
families. Today's announcement, like the others, shows that a patient wait
times guarantee is achievable when all governments work collaboratively," said
the Honourable Jim Prentice, Regional Minister for Alberta and the
Territories. "Canadians expect us to work together in their best interest."
    Today's announcement complements a number of previously launched
federally funded pilot projects toward achieving timely access to better care.
These include three which are designed to test guarantees for prenatal and
diabetes care in selected First Nations communities, while a fourth is a
national paediatric pilot project to address wait times for children in need
of surgery.

    
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    INFORMATION                                                   March 2007
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    Patient Wait Times Guarantees
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Patient Wait Times Guarantees (PWTGs) are important tools to help provide
certainty for patients, build public confidence in the public health system
and enhance system accountability. As international experience has shown,
PWTGs can be designed to meet particular needs as part of a multi-pronged
access strategy.
    In order to fulfill the above intended objectives, PWTGs should include
the following core elements:

    - a defined timeframe to establish when medically necessary health care
      services should be delivered; and,
    - access to alternative options of care that are automatically offered to
      patients if the system fails to deliver treatment within the defined
      time frame.

    Timeframe

    A defined timeframe would ideally be informed by scientific evidence,
clinical consensus as well as other jurisdictional considerations (i.e.,
capacity). Evidence-based benchmarks would therefore continue to function as
the guide posts for the timely provision of care with targets indicating how
jurisdictions plan to achieve the benchmarks. The defined timeframe would
build on the common benchmarks and provincial/territorial wait times targets
and complement the overall strategies to improve timely access to required
health services (i.e., appropriate referrals/service use, clinical thresholds
for getting on a wait list, centralized tracking).
    However, a defined timeframe without the offer of access to alternative
care options does not represent a PWTG, as it does not help to provide
certainty for patients.

    Access to Alternative Care Options

    Access to alternative care options (recourse) would give patients the
certainty that should their wait time exceed the defined timeframe, the system
would automatically respond by offering options for obtaining timely care
(e.g., ranging from access to another provider within the same institution,
through to service outside the jurisdiction). Patients would not need to
initiate a process for recourse on their own. Whether or not the patient
accepts such alternative care options, however, is ultimately their choice.
    Existing alongside system-initiated access to alternate care options,
patients would continue to have access to processes that they initiate
themselves (i.e., ombudsperson, administrative tribunals), although these can
be burdensome on patients and involve a more litigious approach.
    Current system improvements to monitor and inform patients as they wait
for care (centralized tracking/ booking systems, patient navigators) serve to
minimize the ultimate need for alternate care options and assist patients as
they move through their care journey.
    This understanding of PWTGs offers patients increased certainty of timely
care while providing provincial and territorial governments considerable
flexibility in determining the definition of the timeframe and the range of
options for alternative care to be offered. There is also significant
flexibility in the services covered and timelines for implementation,
recognizing the differing circumstances, starting points and priorities of
provinces and territories.

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    INFORMATION                                                   March 2007
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    Canada Health Infoway
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    What is Infoway?

    Canada Health Infoway is an independent, not-for-profit corporation
established in 2001. Infoway's goal is to put in place the basic elements of a
Canada-wide system of interoperable electronic health records for 50% of
Canadians by the end of 2009. To achieve this goal, Infoway works as a
strategic investor to accelerate the development of health information and
communications technologies, including electronic health records, telehealth
and public health surveillance systems on a pan-Canadian basis. The Members of
Infoway are the 14 Federal/Provincial/Territorial Deputy Ministers of Health.

    How does this work relate to the federal government's priorities?

    The Government is committed to delivering the health care Canadians need,
when they need it.
    A patient wait times guarantee has been identified by Canadians as one of
the most important government priorities. Investment in electronic health
records is a key building block in establishing a health care system that
provides improved access, quality and productivity, resulting in the reduction
of wait times.
    The anticipated benefits of an interoperable, pan-Canadian electronic
health record system include:

    - Canadians not having to repeat their health history to every provider
      along their journey through the health care system;
    - increased patient safety, as the provision of faster, better
      information will speed diagnosis and treatment and help prevent medical
      errors;
    - public health professionals better equipped to respond to emerging
      health crisis, having improved disease tracking and surveillance tools;
    - reduced health care system costs resulting from fewer duplicated
      laboratory and clinical tests.

    How much funding does Infoway receive from the federal government?

    In the 2000 and 2003 Health Accords, First Ministers agreed to place a
priority on funding the development of electronic health records and
telehealth. The federal government invested $1.1 billion in Infoway in
response to those agreements and, in 2004, an additional $100 million in
support of public health surveillance. In Budget 2007, the government
announced an additional $400 million to Infoway to advance patient wait times
guarantees through the development of health information systems and
electronic health records.
    Infoway works collaboratively with health ministries, private sector
information technology and health care partners, and end users of electronic
health record solutions, including physicians, nurses and pharmacists. The
corporation adds value through joint planning with provinces and territories,
development and promotion of common architecture and standards, investment in
shared services, sharing of knowledge, negotiation of national pricing with
vendors and coordination of common procurement.
    Adherence to the national architecture and standards for electronic health
records, collaboratively developed by Infoway and its partners, allows
jurisdictions to develop systems that meet their own priorities, with an
assurance that all shared systems and components will be compatible.
    Costs are shared:

    - Infoway covers up to 100% of territorial and 75% of provincial project
      development and implementation costs (the provincial share is 25%)
    - provinces and territories are responsible for 100% of ongoing operating
      and maintenance costs

    What are the results to date?

    With over 160 electronic health records projects in the planning or
implementation stages, solid progress is being made in a variety of areas that
contribute to the needed reductions in patient wait times. To date, Infoway
and its partners have developed infrastructure elements, such as standards, an
electronic health records architecture, a privacy and security framework and
registries to uniquely identify patients and providers.
    There have been some early successes in diagnostic imaging, laboratory and
drug information systems. Many of the jurisdictions are currently moving from
a planning mode into wide scale development and implementation, and
significantly more visible accomplishments are expected in the near future. A
recent diagnostic imaging study showed that 80% of referring physicians
indicate wait times to review an exam were reduced and 86% of radiologists say
turn-around time has improved.
    Of the more than 160 projects mentioned above, here are a few
recently-announced electronic health record initiatives, in which Infoway has
had varying levels of involvement and investment:

    - Quebec's $547 million plan to create a province-wide electronic health
      record by 2011;
    - British Columbia's investment of $150 million to develop a province-
      wide electronic health record by 2009;
    - Alberta's addition of $116 million to existing investments aimed at
      delivering electronic health records for all Albertans by 2008;
    - Prince Edward Island has launched a $13 million project to provide an
      electronic health record for doctors' offices, hospitals and pharmacies
      by 2007.

    For more information on Infoway, please go to: www.infoway-inforoute.ca

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For further information:

For further information: Media Inquiries: Carole Saindon, Health Canada,
(613) 957-1588; Rita Smith, Office of the Honourable Tony Clement, Federal
Minister of Health, (613) 957-0200; Patricia Living, Yukon Health and Social
Services, (867) 667-3673; Cindy Hoffman, Director, Corporate Communications,
Canada Health Infoway, (514) 397-7335, 1-866-868-0550; Public Inquiries: (613)
957-2991, 1-866 225-0709; Health Canada news releases are available on the
Internet at www.healthcanada.gc.ca/media


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