Author Archives: CMAJ

Arlene Bierman is the Director of Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement (CEPI) at the United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

Rick Glazier is a Family Physician and Senior Scientist and Program Lead of Primary Care and Population Health at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) in Toronto, Canada

 

Primary care is foundational to optimizing individual and population health. Health systems based upon primary care provide better access to care while improving health equity and outcomes and reducing costs. Effective models of primary care can greatly enhance the value of increasingly constrained health care spending. Despite large investments on primary care transformation in the US and Canada, primary care has yet to achieve its full promise in either country. Sharing successes and failures from attempts at innovation on both sides of the border can help each country accelerate improvement.

Despite very different health systems, primary care practices in both countries encounter remarkably similar challenges in delivering care. At the point of care, patients’ needs are similar and their experiences too often suboptimal. ...continue reading

Robyn Tamblyn is the Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Health Services and Policy Research, and a Professor in the Departments of Medicine and  Epidemiology & Biostatistics in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University, Canada

Andrew Bazemore is a practicing physician and the Director of the Robert Graham Center – Policy Studies in Family Medicine & Primary Care -  in Washington, DC

 

Yehuda Berg, an American author and spiritual leader, was probably talking about individual level transformation when he said “We need to realize that our path to transformation is through our mistakes. We're meant to make mistakes, recognize them, and move on to become unlimited.” But the statement has a lot of validity even applied to system level transformation.

Canada and the United States share the dubious honor of ranking near the top of OECD nations for total healthcare costs and near the bottom for health outcomes, whether measured in terms of individual health or health system performance. But it is through the recognition of these mistakes that both countries have embarked on a path toward transformation.

While differences between the two systems of health care delivery are frequently emphasized, we actually face some common challenges to primary care transformation ...continue reading

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Trevor Hancock is a professor and senior scholar at the University of Victoria’s school of public health and social policy

 

The Iroquois Confederacy’s Great Law is said to include the principle of making decisions taking into account impacts on the  seventh generation, which means thinking 140 – 175 years ahead. That is a far cry from our modern politicians, who can barely think past the next election, never mind our businesses and stock markets that are too often focused only on the next quarter’s bottom line.

As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, it seems a particularly good time to think about the next 150 years. Of course we can’t predict that far ahead; imagine how much of today’s world we could have predicted in 1867. But there is no doubt that what we do today will have impacts at least 150 years into the future, and probably much further. ...continue reading

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Cory Peel is a GP-Anesthesiologist who locums throughout British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon

 

A couple of months ago I read Mike Hager’s article in the Globe and Mail about Dr. Reggler’s tribulations at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox, BC, and I was overcome by a realization that, despite having been a practicing Family Physician for 7 years, I had culpably little understanding of the prejudicial impact of faith-based hospitals in determining patient access to care.

The article detailed the refusal of the “Catholic hospital” in Comox to provide medical aid in dying to its patients despite having a staff physician willing and able to do so, thereby forcing them to be transferred elsewhere. That such a policy could exist stunned me. It is the work of “the bishop [a.k.a. the Diocese of Victoria] and the hospital board,” with the board’s CEO maintaining that “minimizing patient discomfort and pain is always the highest priority,” which seems to me to fly in the face of logic.

It is not, however, an isolated example. Canada contains many hospitals whose delivery of healthcare to its patients is directed by Church doctrine. ...continue reading

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Jesse Kancir is a resident in Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the University of British Columbia, and former Policy Adviser to Canadian federal Minister of Health, Jane Philpott

 

Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States is a cause for worry for population and public health. An early policy victim appears to be Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA’s founding policy debates influenced my own interest in public health and health systems as a young medical student so the early steps taken by US Congress to dismantle it have affected me deeply. But it’s not just nostalgia. Concerns are real that Trump’s administration may impact global welfare, yet I’ve been comforted by thinking that a Trump administration highlights several opportunities for progress in Canadian healthcare. In 2017, Canadian healthcare can strive to contrast with negative developments in the US and be the highest expression of our commitment to each other and to a better society. ...continue reading

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David Falk is a palliative care physician working in Calgary, Alberta

 

Recently the president of one of the Quebec medical federations published a request to the public to give the medical profession some time to accept physician assisted death (or medical assistance in dying - MAiD) “because they do not like change.”  I agree and disagree with him about this.  Yes, physicians are slow to change without measured assurance that the change would be beneficial to their patients, but, when it comes to the matters of the heart, these changes may not be beneficial nor become mainstream.  Suppression of visceral responses does lessen with repeat exposure, just as shoplifting becomes less traumatic the more often you do it, but whether continued suppression of the heart language is good is questionable. ...continue reading

Domhnall MacAuley is a CMAJ Associate Editor and a professor of primary care in Northern Ireland, UK

 

The concept of the “Salon” is based on the tradition of European intellectual gatherings that led to the great literary, artistic and political movements of our time. At a recent meeting of primary care researchers in Colorado Springs, Frank deGruy gathered a group of colleagues in this way together to create discussion, debate and perhaps generate ideas. Such gatherings might take place with any group and in any context - in a department, region or nationally. On this occasion, Frank attracted a group of about twenty delegates of the NAPCRG meeting from various international and professional backgrounds and I was fortunate enough to be included. ...continue reading

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Jacalyn Duffin is a hematologist and historian who holds the Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine at Queen’s University

 

The sixth full year of the global generic drug shortage has drawn to a close. We Canadians can look back and marvel at how little we still know about the problem. Generic drug shortages do not get anything like the attention paid to the fraught relationship between the federal government and the provinces over a renewed health accord. They are also obscured by concerns over brand-name, on-patent pharmaceuticals, such as the shocking price hikes that occurred overnight last February when Martin Shkreli raised the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750, or when Valeant upped the price for a month’s supply of two drugs for Wilson’s disease to more than $25,000. Yet, looking back over 2016, Canada has reported shortages of reliable generic drugs for epilepsy, bladder cancer, psychosis, syphilis, asthma, and kits for treating overdose.  ...continue reading

Iona Heath was a general practitioner in inner-city London for 35 years and is a Past President of the UK Royal College of General Practitioners.  She is a co-chair of the Scientific Committee for the 2017 Preventing Overdiagnosis conference

 

Over the past several decades, the economic interests of the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries have both pressured and tempted medicine to overextend itself.  The traditional moral commitment of the medical profession to relieve suffering and to care for the dying has been gradually displaced by a futile and misguided attempt to solve humanity’s most profound existential problems through biotechnical means.  Doctors now apply more and more powerful treatments towards the end of life and try to prevent diseases by seeking out and correcting more and more risk factors.  All this has led to an epidemic of overdiagnosis ...continue reading

Pippa Hawley is the Head of the Division of Palliative Care at the University of British Columbia

 

The recent headlines about legalization of cannabis in Canada - a subject already fraught with bias - has illustrated the need for care when reporting on statistical observations. An example of things going badly wrong is a recent Vancouver Sun column headline “Fatal car crashes triple among drivers high on marijuana after legalization in Colorado; double in Washington state”. This was based on an article in the October issue of the BCMJ. The headline would seem to indicate that there has been a dramatic increase in fatal car crashes in those two states caused by people driving high on newly-legal cannabis.

This would be very important information and a pretty persuasive argument against legalization of cannabis, if it were true. ...continue reading