An ICT perspective on Private v. Public Healthcare in Canada (PDF)

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The issues involved with the choice of health system for Canada are many and complex. This paper examines some of these issues. It discusses the merits and demerits of public and private health systems, and analyzes opposing views on the debate. It examines the effectiveness of the current health system and its challenges, if a parallel private healthcare system would be more effective in reducing wait times, and the overall costs of running a public versus a private health system. It also examines broader views regarding the interplay of political, social, economic, and technology forces in the success or otherwise of any health system, including in the financial rearrangement, insurance regulation and risk, and other issues that a shift to a private health system would engender. Private healthcare programs have always complemented Canada’s public health system, covering the supplemental services that fall outside the basic health care coverage the latter provides. Even this traditional cooperation is increasingly untenable, with provincial health spending soaring, and private health plans having to provide more coverage for example, as some provinces de-insure certain healthcare coverage, hence bear more costs, both groups thus forced back to the drawing table to redefine their strategies. There is hardly any disputing that Canada’s health system is at the precipice of change. The issues involved with the choice of health system for Canada are indeed, legion and intricate, an exploration of which is an essential path of what is likely to be an ongoing evolution of the country’s health system. The role that ICT plays in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery is no longer in doubt. Should the question then not be how much more ICT could do to help solve some of the problems that triggered the call for a parallel private health system in the first place, or make the public health system more cost-effective and competitive, and as some would argue, perhaps even make the public v private health system debate immaterial? This paper attempts to provide the answers to this and other questions germane to appreciating the nuances of the provision of health services in Canada.