Health Weekly: Innovation advisory panel presses for nation action

This article was published in iPolitics on December 12, 2014.  Click here to read this article and more similar content.

A first ministers’ conference to develop a pan-Canadian seniors’ strategy, national clearinghouses for clinical practice guidelines and research findings in such areas as antimicrobial resistance, as well as a national program to manage chronic pain were among measures urged in submissions to the federal Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper has disdained meetings with the nation’s premiers, Canadian Medical Association (CMA) President-elect Dr. Cindy Forbes told the panel “the federal government must play a leadership role in ensuring appropriate care for seniors and supporting health care innovation in concert with the provinces and territories and as a system manager itself for patients falling under federal jurisdiction. This can begin with a first ministers’ conference as part of the development of a national seniors strategy.”

Among other measures urged by CMA in its five-point plan was the creation of a National Health Care Guidance Institute to develop and disseminate clinical practice guidelines; the inclusion of residential care facilities in government infrastructure programs; new funding models to integrate clinical and social care and services; “support to provincial/territorial ministries of health to complete the implementation of drug information systems and regional e-prescribing solutions” so as to reduce inappropriate prescribing; and financial support for the Choosing Wisely Canada campaign to identify unnecessary and overutilized interventions. CMA also recommended the creation of a National Health System Innovation Fund to scale up measures that have been identified as effective in delivering care or reducing costs.

HealthCareCAN, meanwhile, argued for the creation of a Canadian Healthcare Innovation Fund “that would: (1) repatriate the current CIHR [Canadian Institutes of Health Research] budget to the institutes, researchers, and open grants programs by creating a separate pot of funding for strategic and signature initiatives; (2) incentivize and match funding for provincial knowledge to practice pathways and programs; (3) explore a credentialed research hospital system for those organizations taking a leading role in research, education and innovation endeavours, linking accountability for innovation infrastructure and performance; (4) create a Canadian Health Innovation Network [“to allow for coordination across existing priorities and resources in the health and life sciences,” as well as better leveraging of monies] … and (5) bring focused attention to the discussion and spread of clinical practice guidelines and innovations in crucial areas such as anti-microbial resistance, pandemic planning, drug shortages, etc.”

Meanwhile, the establishment of a “national body” (similar to the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer), to develop a plan to deal with chronic and persistent pain was the primary recommendation of a submission from the Canadian Pain Society, Canadian Pain Coalition, Chronic Pain Association of Canada, Pain BC, and ILC Foundation. The groups also urged that governments “develop and evaluate patient-centred service delivery and funding models for pain management in the community, which provide interdisciplinary assessment, care and support as a part of comprehensive primary health care centres and services as well as access to specialized, multidisciplinary tertiary pain centres as needed.”

In other submissions, the Information Technology Association of Canada urged that the panel “adopt digital health as a critical enabler of healthcare innovation,” while the Canadian Association of Retired Persons called for a “full-system redesign” so as to “focus on care and not where it is now delivered, and to design the system based on the needs of the healthcare citizens rather than the needs of the service providers. It is time that the system provides a comprehensive 360 degrees of care around the needs of the healthcare citizen.”

The advisory panel, chaired by past president of the University of Toronto Dr. David Naylor, was specifically mandated to: “Identify the five most promising areas of innovation in Canada and internationally that have the potential to sustainably reduce growth in health spending while leading to improvements in the quality and accessibility of care; [and] Recommend the five ways the federal government could support innovation in the areas identified above.”

  • While the prices of generic drugs in Canada have dropped, they’re still well above international averages, according to a Patented Medicines Prices Review Board report, Generic Drugs in Canada, 2013. “The gap between foreign and Canadian prices was wider for molecules with higher sales. The price differences were especially pronounced for drugs with estimated annual sales in Canada of $10 million or more, with the mean international prices 39% lower than in Canada. These markets account for more than two-thirds (68.5%) of generic sales.”

As part of nationwide review of professional allowances paid to pharmacies, the Canada Revenue Agency has sought judicial authorization to compel drug manufacturers to disclose goodies paid to drugstores, including “money transfers, preloaded credit cards, gift cards, concert tickets, trips and traveller’s cheques,” CBC reported. Such allowances are illegal in Ontario.