Using the latest available information, the report provides a retrospective analysis of health care over the past 10 years. Designed to be informative, this report identifies trends in health care delivery; highlights key factors and provides a forward-looking perspective about factors influencing health care in the years to come. The report addresses the following:
Policy Direction: At the end of the 1990s, governments were beginning to reinvest in health care after a period of mid-decade restraint. Three agreements—in 2000, 2003 and 2004—resulted in new federal and provincial commitments for health reform and added billions of dollars to health care.
Innovation: Innovation in surgical technique meant a move to less invasive surgery, resulting in reduced stays and lower costs. Technologies such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are the diagnostic tests of first resort. New therapies tailored to patients’ genetics as well as innovation in stem cell research have changed how some patients (such as breast cancer patients) are receiving care.
The Health and Health Care Link: Fewer Canadians suffer from heart attacks, and death rates continue to decline—down 30% between 1998 and 2004 alone. Heart and stroke care in Canada is more effective and timely; fewer patients are admitted with heart attacks, but more have surgery and surgery takes place sooner—43% within one day of admission in 2007–2008, compared to 28% four years earlier. With respect to health status, concerted effort at all levels resulted in fewer Canadians smoking, especially among teenagers. Over the past decade risk factors such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure increased; the impact of these increases will be felt in the coming years.
Money: In 2008, $172 billion was spent on health care—in real terms, nearly 60% more than a decade ago. About half of this increase is attributable to population growth, aging and inflation. The remaining money bought more personnel, technology, innovation and services.
Access to Care: Strategies to better measure and manage wait times were put in place. Some jurisdictions are now able to report declines in wait times for hip and knee replacement and cataract surgery. Benchmark wait times were established for the priority areas of heart surgery and cancer radiation, among others.
Quality and Safety: Landmark studies, some funded through reinvestments in health care research, placed the issues of quality and safety at the fore of health care discussions. Among other initiatives to address these issues, the Safer Healthcare Now! campaign was established.