2016: A big year for Canadian health care

Image: 2016: A big year for Canadian health care

The landscape of health care is changing in a way many of us couldn’t have predicted a decade ago.

With the “grey tsunami” on our heels, the government has increased its focus on providing Canadians with more affordable home based care. For many, this means less time in a hospital bed and more time in the comfort of their homes. However, with the public’s eyes focused on long-term care needs more than ever before, it will be exciting to see how much health care will change in the next year.

Last year the hot button issue was universal access to palliative care options. This lead to a remarkable ruling on assisted dying in Quebec, giving terminally ill patients the right to die. Although the ruling was an unexpected step in patient centred care, other provinces are starting to shift their focus to improving palliative care options. The rationale being that better palliative care will support more Canadians at the end of their life and directly affect the numbers of those who would opt for the right to die.

Canada’s baby boomers are aging and naturally need different types of healthcare services. As health groups, such as the Canadian Cancer Society monitor the changing needs of the people of Canada, the health care system is positively adjusting to the new demands. Here are some definite changes you can expect to see before 2017:

Increase in palliative care options

According to Statistics Canada, for the first time, the number of those 65+ exceeds the number of those 0-14, and this figure is expected to rise. The population is getting older and have different health needs. One of which is having access to quality healthcare and quality home care. With these needs at the forefront of the Canadian health care agenda, we can expect to see massive improvements across the country. Also, a national strategy to make doctors more accessible is in the pipeline as well. A report released by the Canadian Cancer Society estimates that there will be a 40 per cent increase in cancer rates. Currently, around 15% of all Canadians have access to high-quality palliative care when they need it. With predictions that startling, the government is gearing up to have more accessible and quality care.

Healthcare delivery through e-health

Imagine getting your illness looked at by six specialists at a time and having the most comprehensive treatment plan available? Ambitious? Yes, but not impossible. This year, the government has pledged to invest heavily in e-health to help support a more efficient health care system. What you can expect to see is an increase in laboratory and radiology information systems; electronic messaging systems; telemedicine -- teleconsults, telepathology, and teledermatology. Not only will eHealth manage patient records electronically, but it will also allow the sharing of health records seamlessly with various medical specialists. For example, the medical history of an elderly patient diagnosed with Alzheimers, arthritis and failing eyesight will benefit from having a full spectrum of medical advice from various specialities. This will decrease the risk of overmedicating and better streamline the patient's treatment plan.

More support for Caregivers

Caregivers are one of the most important pillars of our society. They support and sustain our loved ones and often without compensation. With the increased need for home care, Canadian caregivers have filled in where they can. Recently the government has promised to increase caregiver benefits. Since January 3rd, 2016 the benefit has allowed claimants to receive up to 26 weeks, up from the current six weeks. Also, the period during which benefits can be collected has expanded to from 26 weeks to 52 weeks. As more focus is placed on home care, we can anticipate many positive changes to come from the province offering better support for caregivers. This includes better workplace safety nets, more accessible home care options and more funding for community care.

Some say a new era of health care is here. The face of seniors are changing, along with the needs of our elderly. How is the government addressing the diverse Canadian landscape? Well, we’re a month into 2016 and some pretty incredible things have happened so far. As the focus of healthcare is moving in the direction of patient-focused solutions, you can bet that Canada will maintain its title as delivering some of the best and most accessible healthcare in the world.