By John G. Abbott
I have the good fortune to take part in many conversations about the future of Canada's health care system. I am an optimist by nature, so I certainly see the glass as more than half-full when it comes to the potential for improving how we deliver health care across this country.
One of the gaps in today's dialogue on the future of the Canadian health care system is that we don't have a vision of what we want to achieve. I'd like to see our vision for health care to be that we will have the best health care system with the healthiest population in the world. Declaring this vision would leave no one in doubt as to what we want to achieve. Just as we promote Canada internationally as having the best financial system, shouldn't we want the same for our health care system, especially since we have all the requisites to be able to achieve this vision?
The advantage of declaring a vision for Canada's health care system is that it would focus our reform efforts at every level of the system. At the same time, each health organization, provider, and ministry would have the responsibility of holding one another accountable for achieving this vision. Canadians—as patients and taxpayers—would have a direct role as well, by being more engaged and living healthier. To achieve this vision, we will need a 'whole of society' approach to health.
So, what can the Health Council do to create this vision and see it realized? First, we can strengthen our public reporting role and draw attention to the best performing systems, either in Canada or around the world. We can identify and promote innovative practices, showing how they work and how they can be implemented more extensively. We can bring greater clarity and transparency to any discussion on the important health care issues and suggest ways to address them. And, we can encourage the evidence-based transformation that we all know needs to happen in the system.
Finally, we should expect leadership and demand it from our ministers, health administrators, and clinicians. Without leadership, our system will remain complacent and the opportunities for improvement will remain unfulfilled.
There is a way forward for our health care system. It will require clear and specific direction from our leaders, a commitment to change, and a high degree of determination to achieve results. But it is possible. At the 2010 Winter Olympics, we both set a goal as a nation and set about achieving it because we knew we could. Now it is time to do the same for our health care system and the Canadians it serves each and every day.
John G. Abbott is the CEO of the Health Council of Canada.