Innovations in Seniors’ Care

June 10, 2016
blood pressure device
Our in-house health advocacy and policy officer benefits expert, Louise Bergeron, attended the Hill Times conference on innovations in seniors’ care on June 2 to glean some insight for our members. Here’s her account:


Innovation seems to be the new buzzword in healthcare these days. The media and health care conferences keep throwing it around to grab attention.  It may all stem from the July 2015 Report of the Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation stressing that innovation is what is needed to improve the Canadian Healthcare System.  This buzzword has also been adopted by Federal Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott.

Dr. Chris Simpson, past president of the Canadian Medical Association and champion of a National Seniors Strategy informed us of the challenges he faces as a doctor in providing care for his senior patients. He emphasized the need for complete electronic medical records to obtain a full medical picture of the person being admitted to the emergency room.  He also sees a need for the healthcare system and providers to move towards a coordinated continuum of care, rather than today’s standard practice of providing care in isolation. In essence, the status quo cannot continue.

The conference included two breakout sessions:  one which was devoted to technological innovations and the other, which I attended, delved into procedural innovation; looking at best practices and policy shifts to foster innovative changes in procedural practices. My decision to attend the latter was motivated by my belief that it is entirely possible to achieve policy changes that support innovative changes in operational procedures. I wanted to hear ideas on precisely how this could be achieved from experts in the field. It was exciting to see that Nadine Henningsen, CEO of the Canadian Home Care Association, who also happens to be a panelist at the Federal Retirees  Association’s Annual Members Meeting next week, would be speaking.  Overall, there was consensus from the experts that a team approach would be necessary to provide coordinated continuum of care for seniors in the future and best practices should be shared and adopted to allow optimal care for seniors in all jurisdictions across Canada.

In my mind, Christine PowerCEO of the Canadian Patient Safety Institutewho was a panel member of the plenary session on System Design: Health Systems Integration had the most memorable quote of the day. She described the Canadian healthcare system as a dying horse and questioned why we are still riding this dying horse. Obviously, those in the healthcare system are clearly frustrated by the lack of functionality within the system.

Bill Tholl, founding president and CEO of HealthCareCAN, shared some interesting ideas on how the federal government could fund provinces that have a higher percentage of seniors to help offset costs generated by the growing health care needs of this demographic. He was not in favour of changing the Canada Health Transfer formula that is based on an equal per capita transfer but instead proposed that a 25% top up be given to those provinces that had a higher percentage of seniors.  All panelists agreed that the money transferred to the provinces through the Canada Health Transfer should be accounted for through vigorous reporting. Presently there is no obligation imposed on provinces to report where these health care dollars are spent and this money is sometimes used to cover other government expenses.

At the end of the day, it was clear to me that we are indeed riding a dying horse but a vision of what will replace this dying horse is on the horizon.  Seniors also need to be part of this conversation and make their voices heard to ensure that any new vision reflects their needs and concerns.  After all - and perhaps this is somehow not obvious to everyone - but seniors are ultimately the best poised to speak to the care they receive in the healthcare system.