This article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of the Ontario Medical Review magazine.
Since the first edition of the Ontario Medical Review 100 years ago, health care has changed considerably and it’s expected that it’s going to change even more dramatically in just the next 10 years.
Most people born in the 1920s could never have imagined the advancement in science and health-care delivery that would come in their lifetime. My grandmother recently passed in her 112th year. She witnessed Banting’s discovery of insulin in 1921, the introduction of penicillin in 1928, the discovery of the DNA structure in 1953, cracking the human genome in 2003, massive advances in drug therapy, digitization of health care and the overwhelming growth and complexity of the health-care system in Ontario.
What her great-great-grandkids will experience would be entirely unimaginable to her. Artificial intelligence, predictive medical analytics, machine learning, voice recognition, blockchain, wearable technology, 3D printing, nanobiology, cellular therapy, and an entirely new emerging private sector advancement into the delivery of health care.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and caused the world to pause, the acceleration of technology, innovation and demand for health care continued. It took 75 years to develop the telephone, 38 years for radio and 13 years for television. The World Wide Web was up and running in four years, and new technology is coming more rapidly than ever: for example, COVID-19 accelerated the development of vaccines exponentially and led to the widespread adoption of virtual care in weeks.
In addition to systems and technology change during the pandemic, there has been an unprecedented shift in consumerization of health care. Patients are increasingly demanding of health systems and health-care providers. The level of stress and administrative burden on physicians has grown to unprecedented levels over recent decades.
The calling to be a physician has always been – and continues to be – among the most noble and respected professions in civil society. It is not, however, immune from the changing world. Through the spectrum of specialties and primary care, physicians will have to be champions in reimagining their role in health systems, innovation and delivery.
Canada is facing its worst crisis in physician shortage and burnout in our lifetime. There are no easy fixes to these problems. Solutions will require fundamental reimagining, planning and integration of health technology and human resources.
After a historic consultation, the Ontario Medical Association launched a plan to transform our health-care system called Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care. It focuses on reducing wait times and the backlog of services, expanding mental health and addiction services in the community, improving home care and other community care, and strengthening public health and pandemic preparedness. It also includes giving every patient a team of health-care providers and linking them digitally. That means health care that follows the patient, not a system that sends people from setting to setting. It means giving people agency over their own care. It means helping them at home. It means using technology and analytics to predict issues before they progress.
This kind of transformation requires a non-partisan systems-level approach focused on the quadruple aims: better outcomes, improved provider experience, effective costs and improved patient experience.
Let’s have the courage to reimagine a health-care system that benefits all Ontarians. A system that provides access to everyone who needs it without unreasonable wait times. One that anticipates the health human resources required to deliver world-class health. One that prioritizes timely access to everyone who needs it. One that has doctors leading and working on reform as a united profession.
I hope you enjoy this 100th anniversary edition of the Ontario Medical Review, one that not only looks back at the milestones of the past but toward a better future.