Canadians happy with health care?

What do Canadians think about health care?

Are you worried about having adequate long-term care, disability insurance, life insurance or funds for excess medical costs? The results are in on how Canadians feel about health care. Deliotte completed a health care consumer survey recently in an effort to determine the perspectives of Canadians as consumers of health care.

What was found is that Canadians are showing a need to be treated as consumers rather than as patients. What Canadians are looking for includes greater access to their health records, improved service, more education, personalized programs, and options for health self-management. Canadians want to collaborate in reaching these goals by using the existing resources and keeping costs under control.

The survey keyed in on six major areas of health care consumer activity - traditional health services, health insurance, health policy, information resources, alternative health services, and wellness and health management.

The results show that Canadians do not feel prepared to handle future health care costs. Although 75% of Canadians report having some form of private health insurance (usually through their employer,) only 25% feel comfortable with their public and private insurance plans. Only 39% have confidence in being able to handle future health care costs.

Most Canadians support expanding private care as long as there is no impact on the public system. Also the wait times cannot be increased. Approximately 56% of the respondents indicated they will support increasing private care services if there is no impact on the current publicly-funded health care system. A reduced amount, 50% of those polled stated their will support increasing private care services if it results in an overall reduction in wait times for public care.

H1N1 has had a big impact. The improvement of responses to pandemics is among Canadians' top health reform priorities. Respondents' top priorities will how the government should be spending money on health care are as follows:

  • 85% favour expanding physician teaching programs,
  • 68% favour increasing funding to support expanding community care services,
  • 61% favour improving public health surveillance and outbreak/pandemic response,
  • 59% favour governments continuing to implement electronic health records.

Politics is affected as well. Results show Canadians' support of politicians hinges on their commitment to increasing access to services, physicians and medications (69%), improving the quality of care (68%), and reducing health costs (51%).

The survey reveals that Americans are more satisfied with hospital care than the Canadians. The difference being 74% of Americans were satisfied vs. 62% of Canadians. Another big difference between Americans and Canadians in choosing a hospital was that for Americans it is the insurance coverage and for Canadians is is the location.

Personal Health Records (PHR) are important to Canadians. The survey reveals that 61% of Canadians want their government, physicians, and/or hospitals to provide their PHR or online medical records. Another 66% want to be able to access a family member's PHR.

The costs of caregiving is causing an impact on Canadians and will only rise. At this time 28% of Canadians provide health care assistance to a friend, family member or other. These situations are often long-term with 38% of these caregivers reporting their situation is two years old or longer. For the family caregivers, 20% report that they cannot earn what they did prior to accepting this responsibility. Long-term care needs will increase as the baby boomer population ages.

More Canadians are widening their criteria for physician selection. The results are as follows:

  • 25% prefer a physician affiliated with a hospital,
  • 25% prefer a physician who works in an inter-professional team,
  • 25% prefer physicians who act as health coaches by providing guidance to help them make their own decisions, and
  • 33% of Canadians still prefer physicians who act as medical authorities and use their own expertise to recommend the best health care approach.

Canadians want more online tools and services. The survey shows:

  • 51% are interested in gaining access to a secure internet site. The site would allow them to schedule office visits, order a refill on a prescription, check test results, access medical records, look up information about treatment options, and check status of bills and payments,
  • 49% want to be able to contact their physician via email to exchange information about their health and get answers to questions and
  • 40% are interested in a nurse call line where they can seek advice about a health problem or help with decisions about when to go the emergency room or doctors' office.

Canadians want different things in the various regions. The strongest differences show in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Quebec.

  • 19% of Quebec consumers have used private health services in the past 12 months vs the 6% Canadian average.
  • 28% of Saskatchewan residents vs 42% Canadians believe that quality varies widely across hospitals.
  • 20% of British Columbia respondents vs 14% of Canadians prefer physicians who integrate holistic approaches into their practice.

What does this mean for health care changes in Canada? Survey results show that the Canadian people will expect more in the coming years. The focus is going to be on "patient-centred care" and will have a big impact on government, physicians, hospitals and other health providers.

Key points that will have to be addressed could include:

  • Cautious implementation of private care options. Canadians are will to consider increased costs for specialized services or enhanced private care but only if the public health system is maintained. Expansion must protect the integrity of the publick health system.
  • Consider initiatives that increase access to community services and physicians. Any policy reform whether it be national or provincial must prioritize on physician and community service access to achieve the greatest return on consumer value.
  • It is time to implement online tools with, personal health records and consumer access to their physicians. Consideration of customized internet tools need to be used to help provide a sustainable personalized health service.
  • Health care providers need to consider the consumers need for safety, convenience and quality. As more options become available to the health consumer this will become ever more important.

Choices for health consumers is here to stay. Canada's health care system is going to go through changes driven by the needs of the consumer. Stakeholders need to be aware of what is coming and to provide what Canadians are going to be looking for in both their personal needs and for the health care system.