Our healthcare is in crisis to the extent that the current path of our healthcare system is going to become unsustainable within a decade. I know that this may seem a surprising conclusion given the efforts of dedicated healthcare professionals and the promise of genomics, regenerative medicine and information-based medicine. But it’s also true that healthcare costs are steadily rising, that healthcare quality is inconsistent across the province, and that access or choice increasingly is inadequate. The baby-boom generation, born between 1946 and 1960, are going to have high expectations not only of healthcare quality but of their own longevity, following earlier their flings with immortality. And it’s a dense irony that expensive new technologies and treatments may soon create an exponentially larger cost burden.
These problems, combined with the emergence of a fundamentally new environment driven by the dictates of economic uncertainty, globalization and demographic shifts are already forcing fundamental changes in healthcare practices. Healthcare systems that fail to address this new environment run the risk of reaching a limiting point where immediate and major forced restructuring will be necessary. We are rapidly reaching that point.
To avoid this prospect, dramatic change must be made. The choices left to the stakeholders of today’s healthcare system revolve around when and how. If we wait too long to act or fail to act decisively enough, our system will be unable to continue on the current path — a frightening, but very real prospect. Financial constraints, counterproductive societal expectations and norms, the misalignment in incentives, short-term thinking, limits to political will, and the inability to access and share critical information all have inhibited the willingness and ability of those managing our healthcare system to undertake the required changes. If the willingness and ability to change cannot be mustered, the result will be the deterioration of the entire healthcare system with the greatest risk to those who will need it most.