Supporting doctors to champion change

BC's 10,000 doctors signed their new, five-year agreement with the provincial government in early December. Along with a 5.5% fee increase over the next five years, the doctors got a Canadian first: acknowledgement and material support —to the tune of $18 million — that their input and leadership is encouraged to improve our health system.

What a change from a decade ago. Back then all the provincial governments across Canada were more apt to blame doctors for the problems of the health system, particularly its inefficiencies and runaway costs. Now BC is the first to provide financial support to help doctors not only be part of the solution, but be its champions for change.

The $18 million over five years will be used to pay stipends to doctors to take time away from direct patient care to attend meetings, provide input, and plan and execute innovative projects.

"This new provision acknowledges the fact that there should be more integration and collaborative in the system, more shared responsibilities, and better relationships between all stakeholders," Health Minister Terry Lake told medical reporter Pamela Fayerman, of The Vancouver Sun.

For government, making this pot of funds available is not a risky leap into the unknown. They already have evidence from the past few years that this tactic has a great potential return on investment. As I have discussed in a previous blog  in the past few years BC has been undergoing unprecedented cooperation and collaboration in the form of joint doctors/ government committees. These committees now receive about $400 million annually and, under this new deal, will continue to have earmarked funding.

 Over the last few years, these committees have been funding doctors to work with health authorities and other allied professional to plan and execute innovative projects.. Dozens of projects are underway.

The physician-led projects include redesigning systems of hip fracture care, setting up variou telehealth services to remote areas of BC,  improving the transitions to adult care for youth with chronic health conditions, improving surgical pathways of care to reduce complications and speed healing,  providing more comprehensive prostate cancer support and more.

On this blog, over the next few months, I am going to write about a number of them. Each are helping to improve patient care, increase efficiencies and transform a problematic piece of the health system.

To be completely transparent: while I bring 30 years of health journalism coverage to my approach to these issues, I am now working with both the Specialist Services Committee and the Shared Care Committee to help tell these stories in various formats. This blog is one way to let people know my take on some pretty cool programs. But this blog is mine alone, with no editing input or oversight by either government or doctors.

First up, more comprehensive prostate cancer support.