Bold new approaches needed to prevent Ontarians overwhelming the hospital system by 2020
New family doctor report outlines tangible steps needed now, and why
Toronto, January 27, 2011 - A new report released by the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP) urgently calls for more emphasis to be put on family medicine and the primary care sector in order to provide Ontarians with what they need and want when it comes to their healthcare, and to prevent them from overwhelming Ontario's hospitals and emergency departments by 2020.
The report, called "Vision 2020: Raising the Bar in Family Medicine and Ontario's Primary Care Sector" is supported by a survey conducted by Harris-Decima for the Ontario College of Family Physicians. The survey demonstrates that:
- Eighty-five per cent of Ontarians expect the healthcare system will ensure they and their family members have a family doctor.Currently, 915,000 Ontarians do not have a family doctor, causing a higher reliance on local hospital emergency room departments or walk-in clinics for care.
- Ninety-one per cent of those who expect to have a family doctor want their family doctor to provide the majority of the care they and their family need, which includes providing access to other healthcare professionals. For example:
- Seventy-six per cent expect access to nurses
- Sixty- eight per cent expect access to nurse practitioners
- Fifty-five per cent expect access to physician assistants
- Forty-three per cent expect access to dietitians
- Forty per cent expect access to pharmacists
- Forty per cent expect specialists to practice with their family doctor
- Thirty -three per cent expect access to social workers
- Thirty-three per cent expect access to mental health workers.
By 2012, 3.2 million Ontarians will be enrolled in the 200 family health teams and other models of primary care funded by the Ontario government that provide comprehensive multi-disciplinary care.However, this will still leave close to 10 million Ontarians (such as mothers, babies, young children, adolescents, and people with serious conditions such as mental illnesses, addictions and other chronic disorders) without access to the higher level of preventive care and treatment that is provided in team-based practices.
"We've made some good progress over the past 10 years by offering family health teams to some Ontarians, but the time has come to kick these initiatives into high gear," says Dr. Anne DuVall, president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians."The province needs to continue to invest in the primary care sector until every person in the province is rostered with a family physician that is supported by an inter-professional team."
According to the Commonwealth Fund report, Canada ranks six out of seven developed countries when it comes to providing a strong primary care system.i This is a wakeup call for all of us.
"As a province and a country with extraordinarily well-trained family physicians, we should be leading the pack when it comes to preventing illnesses and caring for patients in our communities," adds Jan Kasperski, chief executive officer of the OCFP.
The survey also showed that 30 per cent of Ontario's population over the age of 18 (2.8 million Ontarians) suffers from a chronic illness, with 13 per cent saying they suffer from two or more.
"One of the greatest health challenges facing Ontario in the 21st century is the need to develop effective approaches to prevent chronic and other illnesses in the first place, and to address the increasing number of people developing and living with these conditions," say Dr. Duvall."If we do not make the right investments in the primary care sector now, hospitals will crash under the growing weight of chronic and other diseases."
For example, chronic diseases are long-term illnesses.They develop slowly, are typically incurable, often get worse over time and patients require ongoing care and support from a family physician and a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionalsto manage and prevent them.Some of the most common chronic illnesses in Canada are heart disease, diabetes, depression, certain cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Not only are we seeing these illnesses in our growing elderly population, we are seeing children with type 2 diabetes and strokes, something that was unheard of a few years ago. In fact, due to societal changes, it is predicted that this will be first generation of children who are not expected to outlive their parents.ii
"While concern is being expressed by the fact that people with chronic illnesses are filling up doctors' waiting rooms, lining up in hospital emergency departments and occupying hospital beds that are needed for acute care patients, we need a system in place to keep them out of the most expensive parts of the system," says Jan Kasperski."It's time to raise the bar in our primary care system so that by 2020 chronic diseases don't consume hospital resources at an alarming rate, in a way that is not economically sustainable and in a manner that is not in the best interest of Ontarians."
The OCFP's Vision for 2020
"Vision 2020: Raising the Bar in Family Medicine and Ontario's Primary Care Sector" demonstrates how enhancing the primary care sector is the antidote that is needed.Research shows over and over again that healthcare systems anchored in family medicine and the primary care system have the best patient outcomes at the least cost.
Some of the recommendations outlined in the OCFP's "Vision 2020: Raising the Bar in Family Medicine and Ontario's Primary Care Sector" include:
Every person in Ontario has a family doctor.Currently, 10 per cent of adult Ontarians, or 915,000, do not have a family doctor.This can lead to fragmented healthcare that is more costly to the system and less effective for patients.
Every person in Ontario has access to a family doctor that works with other healthcare professionals (such as in a family health team).Only a fraction of the people in the province has access to doctors who work in team-based practice.All Ontarians should be receiving this multi-disciplinary level of primary care and support. This will give them access to a comprehensive basket of healthcare services, enabling them to effectively manage all of their healthcare needs.
Every person in Ontario has an electronic health record.This will allow healthcare professionals to provide better care by having the information they need at their fingertips, such as a patient's medical history, test results, current medications and more. Electronic medical records have been shown to improve the quality of care and save healthcare costs. In fact, 87 per cent of adult Ontarians expect their healthcare records to be electronic and 93 per cent expect their records to be easily accessible by their family doctors and other healthcare professionals.
"Vision 2020: Raising the Bar in Family Medicine and Ontario's Primary Care Sector" was developed by the Ontario College of Family Physicians in consultation with representatives from the Ontario Hospital Association, the Ontario Medical Association, the Association of Community Care Access Centres, the Southeast Local Health Integrated Network, and others."Vision 2020: Raising the Bar in Family Medicine and Ontario's Primary Care Sector" is available online at www.ocfp.on.ca For More Information Contact :
Ontario College of Family Physicians