The Health Council of Canada releases Progress Report 2012: Health care renewal in Canada, highlighting the progress achieved by governments to date in five key areas: home and community care, health human resources, telehealth, access to care in the North, and comparable health indicators since the 2003 health accord was signed.
The report finds that, overall, provinces and territories have met most of what was expected of them in these five areas. They met their commitments to expand home care coverage, to increase the supply of health care providers, to expand use of telehealth services, to improve access to care in the North and to improve public reporting.
Key findings related to five of the accord commitments include:
- Home and community care- Many provinces/territories have moved forward in expanding home and community care services. However, there isvariability in access to home care throughout Canada. For example, progress on end-of-life care differs in terms of which services are covered in each jurisdiction.
- Health human resources- The supply of health care professionals in Canada has increased from 2006 to 2010. The number of physicians grew by 12% to almost 70,000.
- Telehealth- The use of telehealth has increased significantly by 35% annually over the last five years. In 2010, over 5700 telehealth sites were being used in close to 1,200 communities across the country.
- Access to care in the North- With additional federal funding in 2004 progress has been demonstrated within each of the three territories. However, all three territories face significant challenges in the recruitment and retention of health care professionals.
- Comparable health indicators- Each province and territory does its own reporting using their own set of indicators and performance reporting frameworks. There is a need for more comparable pan-Canadian reporting on health system performance.
Although, the report finds that most provincial and territorial governments met their commitments, it also questions whether it was enough to move health care forward. The evidence suggests that since the accords contained vague commitments with few targets, there was more emphasis on putting provinces and territories on similar footing than to push them towards achieving more change and advancements in health care delivery.
"Real progress is made when comprehensive strategies with concrete targets are put in place," said Dr. Jack Kitts, Chair of the Health Council of Canada. "An improved approach to goal-setting and performance measurement in the health system will provide greater impetus to change and achieve higher levels of progress."
The report found that the accords established a series of comparable health indicators for the provinces and territories to report on to the public beginning in 2004. However, comparable reporting only lasted a few years, largely because provinces and territories began to develop reporting frameworks to address their respective planning needs. As a result, the provinces and territories have not consistently reported on progress in the same manner, particularly in a way that is comparable and useful to other governments, the health system and the public. This lack of clear, consistent and comparable information about health system performance makes it challenging for agencies such as the Health Council to provide a national picture to Canadians on progress being made in health systems across Canada.
"What we found this year is that there is more work to be done, especially on comparable indicators. But there is good news. We found a wide array of innovative practices like telehealth services for First Nations in Manitoba or a model of care initiative in Nova Scotia, said John G. Abbott, CEO of the Health Council of Canada. "If practices like these are adopted more widely, they could accelerate progress across Canada."
Progress Report 2012: Health care renewal in Canadadescribes overall progress in Canada highlighting innovative practices from across Canada demonstrating how this progress has been achieved. The Health Council website provides additional details on the progress being achieved by each of the federal, provincial and territorial governments on these five themes. And, for the first time, the report includes activities from Alberta which recently joined the Health Council this year.
About the Health Council of Canada
Created by the 2003 First Ministers' Accord on Health Care Renewal, the Health Council of Canada is an independent national agency that reports on the progress of health care renewal. The Council provides a system-wide perspective on health care reform in Canada, and disseminates information on innovative practices and innovation across the country. The Councillors are appointed by the participating provincial and territorial governments and the Government of Canada.