In the Charlottetown Guardian, AIMS policy analyst Jackson Doughart discusses AIMS’s health forum of April 13, featuring Doctors John Ross and David Zitner. He adduces that a third of P.E.I.’s budget goes to healthcare, and that much could be done to improve the system and contain costs. Read this article on the Charlottetown Guardian website.

For Atlantic Canadians, healthcare is a major expense. The P.E.I. government, for instance, has budgeted 36 percent of its spending for this sector – the runaway largest share of the pie, and over twice as much as the next expenditure. In order to fund these important services, we need to manage our money well. Doctors, hospitals, clinics, operations, and medications are expensive, and the tax dollars to pay for them are limited.

On April 13, the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies held a health literacy forum, featuring Doctors John Ross and David Zitner. “Standing room only” attendance suggests that many people share the Institute’s concern about a decaying model of healthcare. Participants discussed the purposes of care when people are sick, how health is measured, how to decide whether a test result is useful, and how to evaluate the potential benefits and harms of treatments.

Fortunately, citizens can do much to improve their own health and the effectiveness and efficiency of their own care. Simply abstaining from using the emergency room unless one truly needs it would make these facilities less crowded, with shorter wait times. And if people did more to take care of themselves, many would feel better and happier, and would delay the need for expensive care.

Plus, our great healthcare spending is not producing great services. According to a 2014 ranking by the Commonwealth Fund, the United Kingdom, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway, Australia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, and Germany all delivered better healthcare than us, and with less money.

No business would dedicate over a third of its spending to one line item, only to never investigate whether that one investment was performing well. And yet this accountability does not exist here.

How many people are helped or harmed by our healthcare interventions? Which services are helpful, harmful, or merely wasteful? Does our system actually improve comfort, function, and life expectancy? If we had better data, we might find that some of our practices and policies are harming us, rather than improving wellness.

Dr. Zitner noted that many people have difficulty finding a family doctor, at the same time as doctors are asked to do work that could be done by others, including writing notes for administrative purposes, treating minor ailments, refilling prescriptions, and performing checkups. Rather than routinely seeing doctors, people being treated for high blood pressure could monitor their own condition. Then when their pressure is elevated, they would see a doctor, who might have more time to spend discussing appropriate interventions.

Finally, Atlantic Provinces including P.E.I. should follow the examples of British Columbia, California, and some Ontario districts, which send laboratory results directly to patients. Negative results could be simply read, reducing the time that doctors and patients use to discuss routine results. By enabling patients to monitor their results, we would reduce harm from lost or mishandled tests.

While the problems seem complex, patients can take on a greater role for themselves – becoming the “CEO of their own healthcare.” A more health-literate society would be one that costs its taxpayers less money; it would also be a more pleasing and healthy one for all to enjoy.

Read this article on the Charlottetown Guardian website.