Better Now: Danielle Martin on Six Big Ideas to Improve Healthcare

Each year, Rotman hosts approximately 100 public talks by international bestselling authors, top management executives, and other influential thought leaders. On October 4th, Dr. Danielle Martin addressed an audience of healthcare, life science, and business professionals about her book Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Healthcare for All Canadians.

Dr. Martin is Vice-President, Medical Affairs & Health System Solutions and also serves as a family physician at Women’s College Hospital. Her experience and insights into healthcare make her uniquely qualified to address the specific challenges facing our country today.

Brian Golden, Vice-Dean, MBA Programs with Dr. Danielle Martin

Brian Golden, Vice-Dean, MBA Programs with Dr. Danielle Martin

Brian Golden, Vice-Dean, MBA Programs and Program Director for Rotman’s new Global Executive MBA for Healthcare & the Life Sciences introduced Dr. Martin.

Dr. Martin began her talk noting that as a nation, Canada has a great reputation for healthcare and health outcomes. A child born in Canada today has a life expectancy of over 82 years – an excellent measure of our success. But we now spend over 10% of our GDP on healthcare. That is far less than what America spends, but far more than comparable countries elsewhere. At the provincial level, healthcare takes up more than 40% of the annual budget, and rising.

She noted that healthcare systems are, of course, about much more than money and medicine. They’re about the values that define us as a society. Ask Canadians about what the important elements of the Canadian identity are, and chances are they will mention healthcare. We love to talk about the successes of our health systems, but we are less interested in discussing the challenges that lead to rising costs, to lowered quality of life, and to poor patient experience.

But, Dr. Martin says, if we don’t talk about these issues, we’ll miss opportunities to make changes that would have a huge impact.  For example, the current Canadian system is full of problems that cause us to pay far more for the drugs we buy than other countries.  Plans and coverages are inconsistent, inefficient bureaucracies are abundant, and fragmentation works against economics of scale, driving up costs. The cost of private drug plans negatively impacts our individual lives and drags down our economy.

Small and medium-sized businesses feel as though they need to choose between their bottom lines and supporting their employees with comprehensive benefit plans. Precarious and part-time work is on the rise, and will not go away here or elsewhere in the world, which means we are going to be failing increasing numbers of Canadians each year who will not receive healthcare benefits from their employer. That’s not just for low-income Canadians, either. It includes people who are self-employed, such as highly paid consultants and lawyers.  Having a chronic condition could mean being tied to an employer with a strong benefits package, eliminating the freedom to start a new firm or small business.

Solutions like OHIP Plus cover Ontarians over 65 or under 25, but leave the middle range, which contains the majority of people who have chronic diseases, without coverage. These people experience early stage issues that, when not addressed, lead to huge complications down the road.

Dr. Martin’s point is that every one of us is a job loss and a cancer diagnosis away from having to choose between our lives and our happiness, our families, and our freedoms. “No one should have to decide between their health and their family,” she says.

One solution she suggests is a universal pharmacare program, which she believes could reduce total spending on drugs in Canada by as much as 7.3 billion dollars[1]. Re-organizing the resources we already have in this manner could reduce the cost of drugs to the consumer, which would go a long way to ensuring everyone has access to the drugs they need to get better and stay healthy.

The secret sauce to solving our problems is breaking down barriers and silos – not putting provincial limits on healthcare, but working as one unified country to provide the best possible care. That’s how we save money and create better outcomes at the same time.

Healthcare is an $8 trillion global industry, representative of the service and knowledge-oriented focus of the 21st century economy. The Rotman School of Management is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in the innovations taking place across health and life science systems, helping people across the full value chain provide greater patient value. Visit the Centre for Health Sector Strategy for more information.

You can view a short version of Danielle’s talk here to learn more.

[1] https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/03/16/national-pharmacare-program-could-save-73-billion-study.html

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