Shortcomings in Seniors’ Care: How Canada Compares to its Peers and the Paths to Improvement

Posted on September 28, 2023 in Child & Family Policy Context

Source: — Authors: , – Public Policy Research
September 21, 2023.   Rosalie Wyonch, Tingting Zhang

Benchmarking Canada’s healthcare systems to those in comparable wealthy nations can provide insights into its relative performance and inform priorities for improvement. An international survey carried out by the Commonwealth Fund, a US-based foundation dedicated to improving healthcare systems, provides data for this comparison. The Fund’s 2021 International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults (CMWF) focused on a random sample of seniors aged 65 and older in 11 countries and asked about their experiences, interactions and perceptions of the healthcare system and health providers. The survey covers different aspects of seniors’ care including primary and specialist care, chronic illness care, coordination of care, hospital care, home care, end-of-life care planning, the health of seniors, and their overall perceptions of the health system. The 2021 survey also provides information about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected seniors and their experience with the healthcare system.1

Using 49 indicators from the CMWF survey, we created five summary categories: access to care, care process, equity, the impact of COVID-19 on seniors, and the health status of seniors in Canada compared to peer countries.2 Such an international comparison allows us to understand areas where Canada’s health system is doing well in seniors’ care and areas for improvement.

Overall, Canada ranks 8th out of 11 countries included in the survey. Comparing the results shows some provinces such as Prince Edward Island and Ontario are strong performers in areas like care process, which includes factors such as coordination across providers and patient engagement. Other provinces, notably Newfoundland and Labrador, have severe issues, often ranking close to last in areas like access to care and equity.

In order to improve Canada’s international standing in seniors’ care, some fundamental policy and organizational issues need to be addressed. While Canada generally performs well in the care process category, it performs poorly in terms of access to care and equity, with no provinces reaching the international average in either category. Addressing access challenges for seniors through improved continuity of care, affordability and reducing wait times would improve Canada’s rank. The variations in domestic results and international comparisons offer good lessons for each province.

Shortcomings in Seniors’ Care: How Canada Compares to its Peers and the Paths to ImprovementOverall Score

Rosalie Wyonch is a Senior Policy Analyst and leads the C.D. Howe Institute’s Health Policy Council and Research Initiative. Her research focuses on policy issues affecting healthcare in Canada.

Tingting Zhang is a Junior Policy Analyst at the C.D. Howe Institute. She has a B.Sc. in Economics from the University of Western Ontario, and an M.A. in Economics from McGill University. Her research interest focuses on social policy with a concentration on workforce development and women’s economic empowerment.

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