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Instability and the Need to do More with Less

Posted Dec 02 2008 5:04pm

Just what we needed right now, in the midst of the deepest financial crisis in a generation, a coalition of political parties that looks like the three proverbial (See no Evil, Speak no Evil, Do no Evil) simians, Ontario and Alberta have concurrently made announcements about significant changes or cuts to their healthcare systems. Get ready to do more with less as care is further decentralized away from hospitals and closer to the community.

In an article published today in the Edmonton Sun: "Clinics are being given a much greater role in Alberta's new health-care delivery strategy in order to free up beds in crowded hospitals and reduce patient waiting times. Health Minister Ron Liepert said more patients will be sent to clinics and specialized facilities that will be given the authority to perform non-emergency treatments now available only in hospitals. "The bottom line is we need to change the role of hospitals," Liepert told a news conference yesterday. "By making more community-based health services available, overall wait times in hospitals will be reduced. (Watch the embedded video clip below)

In addition, hospitals in Ontario will be facing major cuts:"One in every two hospitals in Ontario has been in the red this year as growing demand for health-care services has left them trying to cope with too many patients and not enough funds, says a report to be released today. The budget shortfalls are forcing dozens of hospitals to close beds, cut patient services and lay off staff in an effort to balance their books by the end of the 2008-09 fiscal year March 31, according to the report by the Ontario Health Coalition. The document says hospitals are in the throes of the biggest restructuring since the mid-1990s, when the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris slashed funding for health care and education as part of its Common Sense Revolution."

So, what does this all mean to healthcare Information Technology? With the conservative government back-pedaling and potentially closing parliament until January, will new funds be made available for necessary programs such as the Canada Health Infoway investment strategy?

In addition, what does this mean to physicians who are already struggling to cope with current workload?

We clearly need a more efficient mechanism to share information and make sure that the appropriate care is provided through the appropriate source. However, it is not possible to do this if we do not have doctors connected to the system.

It is now more critical than ever to ensure that physicians are well supported and have high levels of adoption of EMRs. The risk is a persistent paper-dominated system, or even worse, a partially enabled technology infrastructure that forces physicians and other healthcare providers to work in two settings side-by-side - paper and electronic!

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