Health care in Canada: 15 things you need to know
New website offers treasure trove of information and comparative data
By Don Butler, OTTAWA CITIZEN November 8, 2013
Only 22 per cent of family doctors in Canada say their patients can get a same- or next-day appointment. By comparison, 86 per cent of family doctors in France say same- or next-day appointments are possible. In the United States, the comparable number is 47 per cent.
OurHealthSystem.ca, a public website developed by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), went live Thursday. As a means of educating Canadians about their $200-billion-a-year health system, there’s never been anything quite like it.
The website allows users to compare 15 indicators in five areas of performance measurement — access, quality of care, spending, health outcomes, and health promotion and disease prevention — chosen after consultations with 3,000 Canadians in February.
Where possible, it also presents information on whether Canadians have an equal chance at good health and health services, a sixth area of performance that rated highly with the public.
The website offers information at the national and provincial level for all 15 indicators, at the health region level for 10 indicators and at the hospital level for three.
CIHI says the website is not intended to rank or rate organizations or regions. But by highlighting top performers, the site shows Canadians where things are working well and shows system managers which peers they can learn from, it says.
Here are 15 surprising things about the health system that emerge from the data.
1. The risk of premature death from avoidable causes is four times greater for men from poorer neighbourhoods than for women from richer neighbourhoods.
2. Thirty per cent of deaths in Canada among those under 75 are from preventable or treatable causes.
3. Only 22 per cent of family doctors in Canada say their patients can get a same- or next-day appointment. By comparison, 86 per cent of family doctors in France say same- or next-day appointments are possible. In the United States, the comparable number is 47 per cent.
4. In 2011, 17 per cent of Canadians had no regular doctor, up from 15 per cent in 2003, even though the number of family doctors per 100,000 Canadians rose to 106 from 96 during the same period.
5. Richer women are significantly less likely to be obese than poorer women in Canada. But richer men are more likely to be obese than poorer men.
6. Seven per cent of 15-to-17-year olds who live in smoke-free households say they smoke. When there’s another smoker in the house, the number jumps to 22 per cent.
7. Only 15 per cent of richer Canadians smoke, compared to 26 per cent of poorer Canadians and 40 per cent of First Nations members.
8. Residents of the Richmond Health Services Delivery Area in British Columbia live, on average, 85.7 years — the longest in Canada. Their life expectancy is 4.6 years more than the national average. Residents of Nunavut live just 71.6 years on average, the lowest in Canada.
9. Nearly three out of every 10 dollars spent on health in Canada come from private, not public, sources. In the United Kingdom, the comparable figure is 17 per cent. In the U.S., it’s 52 per cent.
10. Average public health spending on someone age 80 or older in Canada is nine times greater than for those between the ages of one and 64.
11. One-quarter of patients in Canada wait four months or more for elective joint replacement surgery. In the U.S., the comparable number is seven per cent and in Germany, it’s almost zero.
12. The number of Canadians who had hip or knee replacements rose from 73,000 in 2010 to 85,000 in 2012. Those extra 12,000 hip and knee replacements cost the health system more than $100 million.
13. More than 40 per cent of patients in Canada wait more than two months to see a specialist, compared to seven per cent in Germany and nine per cent in the U.S.
14. The percentage of Canadians waiting three months or longer to see a specialist for a new illness jumped to 17 per cent in 2011 from 10 per cent in 2003. In the same time period, the number of specialists per 100,000 Canadians increased from 91 to 103.
15. Re-admissions to hospital cost $1.8 billion a year in Canada. The risk of returning to hospital is 20 per cent higher for those who live in the poorest neighbourhoods compared to the richest neighbourhoods.
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