The future of healthcare needs improved collaboration

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Transformation is a popular buzz word – particularly in where we’re always looking for better ways to deliver care.

As we look to the future of healthcare, transformation won’t be just something we talk about – it will be something we have to do to meet the needs of our growing and aging population.

We all know our population is aging. A recent Statistics Canada report projected that seniors would account for a quarter of the population within the 25 years. It showed the number of people 75 and older will triple in the next 25 years. And it revealed, for the first time, we are a country of more seniors than children.

What does this mean for the health  care system?

It means we will be caring for an increasing number of patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. It means there will be greater demand on our publicly funded health care system. It means transformation and innovation will be necessary in order to provide our patients with the kind of quality, patient-focused care they need and deserve.

This kind of transformation will take partnership. Health care providers of all stripes must get better at working together in our efforts to put patients first. We must get better at communicating, at integrating, and at working collaboratively.

The government is a key player in that equation and in Ontario the future looks uncertain if the current approach to managing our health-care system continues.

Faced with a challenging financial situation, the government has made the choice to flat-line hospital budgets, which has meant staff layoffs, bed closures and reduced operating room hours – all of which decrease access to care for patients.

When it comes to Ontario’s doctors, the provincial government is not working with the 28,000 physicians who deliver front-line care to patients across the province every day. We are concerned by the almost seven per cent in unilateral cuts since February 2015 the government has made to physician services expenditures, which cover all the necessary care doctors provide to patients every day.

Continued cuts are not sustainable and it’s not the formula for the kind of health care our patients need today or in the years to come.

I believe this transformation and partnership is possible. We’ve done it before.

It is through working together that physicians and the government transformed primary care. We moved towards group-based models of care that include family health teams where physicians and nurses work alongside other ancillary health care providers such as registered dieticians and social workers to provide comprehensive care to a range of patients.

A recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) found there are many benefits with these kinds of interprofessional teams – in particular patients with diabetes have improved outcomes. There is more work to be done on this front, but instead the government pressed pause on many of the group-based models of care with the unilateral changes it imposed on physicians in February of this year.

It is these models of care that made family medicine an attractive area to practice once again and for the sake of the more than 800,000 people in Ontario without a family doctor we can’t afford to go backwards.

The has an idea on how to leverage the interprofessional teams that exist today to provide care to those complex patients who could benefit from seamless team-based care. The government has ideas, too.

Neither of us can do it alone and the people of Ontario expect us to work together to address the issues that will make our health care system sustainable into the future for them and their families.

Let’s work together to put patients first. They deserve nothing less.