The sky is falling the sky is falling…

Everything old is new again…unfortunately. Provincial budgets across Canada are starting to be squeezed, here in BC healthcare services spending cuts are coming down the pipe. It also appears to be the case in “rich” Alberta. According to this article:

http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/alberta/2009/08/27/10629431-sun.html

“Alberta health-care workers will be offered voluntary early retirement as part of a plan to attack a $1.3-billion budget deficit, Alberta Health Services (AHS) president Stephen Duckett announced yesterday. That’s a key part of a two-phase plan that will see $965 million trimmed from the $10.9-billion AHS budget while still improving health care..

Whether you live in BC, Alberta or parts North or East, healthcare funding for services is feeling a tight squeeze from the economic downturn. What is going to be the impact on healthcare IT spending. Traditionally Health IT spending is less than 2% of operating budgets in acute care, and its seen as a cost item and not an investment. How bad will it get for healthcare IT?

To address some of these challenges, I expect to see jurisdictional/structural change such as an acceleration of the current trend of centralization of service delivery responsibility…or in English…RHA/LHIN amalgamation, and bulk buying. At some point the politicians are going to have to start talking with the CDN public about how much they really want to spend on healthcare, 60%, 80% or 100% of the provincial budget? To date this has not happened, largely because it is seen as political suicide to open this conversation with the public. Considering the current healthcare spending increases, we are going to have this “crisis” conversation within a year or two.

Do I sound like Chicken Little? What does everyone else think?

Mark

One response to “The sky is falling the sky is falling…

  1. Well, after not posting for a while, you sure come back with a vengeance Mark! Talk about asking the hard questions!

    I do agree that there is a need for a public debate of the issues that you raise and that there appears to have been some reluctance to do so. Given the focus on this blog, I’d like to hone in one of the questions that you raised – “What is going to be the impact on healthcare IT spending?” and address one of your follow up comments to this question “its [healthcare IT] seen as a cost item and not an investment”.

    I have just come back from three days in Toronto. Inevitably, the eHealth Ontario story was the topic of conversation with just about everyone with whom I met (well, possibly the person at the hotel front desk didn’t bring it up). One of my comments to anyone who would listen (and, perhaps, some people nearby who didn’t want listen) was “Who is speaking out on behalf of and making the case for eHealth?” So far, no one that I can see.

    We need to change the perception among many people that IT is a cost item rather than an investment in our future healthcare system. Right now, eHealth is quickly becoming synonymous with “boondoggle”. Where is Infoway? Where is COACH? Where is ITAC Health? I believe in and support all three organizations in whatever way I can but I’m a little disappointed that these organizations aren’t making the case for eHealth.

    I’m paying more attention to learning what is happening in the US regarding eHealth and I’m seeing considerably more excitement and growing momentum there. Of course, it probably helps when the President talks about eHealth and appears to get that it is a necessary investment. What do we need to do to generate the same level of enthusiasm here?

    Mike

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