Most Americans dismiss the Canadian health system as socialistic, with visions of people waiting in lines to receive care or never getting care at all. The reality is that the two systems are not as different as you may want to believe. If you set aside the financial models, open market v publicly funded, you will find that these neighbors share many of the same challenges.
As the CEO of a healthcare technology services company operating on both sides of the border, I have seen these similarities and differences up close. A few observations stand out:
- Aging Populations – Both countries are getting older not younger. The baby boomers are graduating to retirement in the US and in Canada. While Canada’s population is 10% of the United States they are both experiencing additional strain on senior care. Aging at home is desired in both markets, but Canada is more apt to develop models to support this focus faster due to the geographic spread of its residents.
- Technology is virtually the same – At the end of the day, both countries deliver high quality medical care and use similar technology platforms to support their work. Electronic Health Records is the goal and desire in both countries, along with incentives by governments to spur adoption.
- Exchange of Health Information – Canada led the US in this initiative. Canada Health Infoway has been driving the use of electronic patient data for 10+ years (available to 94% of the population). Canada has advantage here because of the smaller scale of their health system and the enforcement of more standards when creating the infrastructure to support health information exchange.
The US is rising every year in the adoption of ePrescribing and electronic health data, but sharing health information remains scant. Most US hospitals belong to private health systems and they lack the incentive to share their patient data with potential competitors. Previous spending to create health information exchange within states and across the US never achieved its potential. Lack of standards, incentives and regulatory constraints within states has limited their effectiveness.
- Wellness to the forefront – Wellness and prevention is a focus for both countries. Preventing medical costs and promoting wellness is a benefit to all. In the age of information, individuals are more informed on how to be healthier and have access to a plethora of apps and devices to track their every move.
So, why is it that Americans and Canadians are adamant about not wanting each other’s healthcare systems? We have more in common than we think.