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Charter Health Crowd

Sicker Canadians face healthcare obstacles


Sicker Canadians with multiple chronic conditions often have a tough time accessing the health care they need, finds a new report.

"Reflecting overall on their experience with the health care system, sicker Canadians have less positive perceptions about their own care and the system as a whole, compared to the general public, reads the Health Council of Canada report, 2011 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Sicker Adults.

Over a quarter of sicker Canadians rate their health as poor, finds the report. And about half of all Canadians live with one or more chronic health condition, such as asthma, diabetes, arthritis, depression or cancer.

While sicker Canadians may have more access to a regular physician (95 per cent) than less sick Canadians (86 per cent) and are consequently less likely to use an emergency room inappropriately (40 per cent vs. 47 per cent), barriers do exist, the report finds.

Cost is a major obstacle to proper healthcare:

  • 23 per cent of sicker Canadians skip doses or medication or fail to fill prescriptions over cost concerns vs. 10 per cent of the general population.
  • 12 per cent of sicker Canadians report skipping doctors visit due to cost concerns vs. 4 per cent of the general population.
  • 59 per cent of sicker Canadians have a household income that’s below average causing impediments to travelling to appointments, paying for child care and taking time off work.

Sicker Canadians also report coordination issues between their various health care providers and less engagement in their care, due to a low level of clarity in doctor-patient dialogue. "Fewer sicker Canadians received help from their regular doctor’s office in coordinating their care with specialists," reads the report.

The authors of the report propose that communication and coordination be improved among health providers through the improvement of electronic medical records and a cultural shift that puts the patient first. They also recommend that solutions be developed to lower healthcare costs to reduce the financial burden on the sickest members of society.

The report is based on a random sample of approximately 19,000 adults in 11 countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Of this group, 3958 were Canadian. They were interviewed by phone between March and June 2011.

To be eligible for the survey, eligible respondents had to report at least one of the following four criteria: they had to rate their health as fair or poor, had experienced a serious or chronic illness in the past year, had been hospitalized in the past two years or had surgery in the past two years


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