Posted by Amy MacPherson
Wasaga Beach: Privatization of health care – Part 3
April 27, 2011 12:08 PM
Region: Ontario Topics:
The know how
By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ont.)
Leitch’s post at UWO’s Centre for Health Innovation and Leadership, an institution that seeks to provide health care professionals with a degree in business health, has seen her become a driving force in translating entrepreneurial pursuits to the realm of health care. In an official white paper she states, “Since the health of a population is directly related to its economic productivity and global competitiveness, then health care delivery must be viewed as an economic engine and not a cost. The health care sector in Canada is the largest ‘business sector’ in the country, yet few think of it in this way. More often, health care is seen as an extension of government or public service, and not as a key component of our economy capable of producing greater wealth and prosperity.”
Leitch and her co-authors go on to say the Canadian health care system is adverse to her innovation and requires new policies to accommodate it. She claims UWO’s health innovation centre was created to “remedy these problems.” The paper mentions renegotiating health care funding in 2014 and includes quotes from Tony Clement in support of her proposal. It goes on to argue for two-tiered funding that would allow private “financial drivers” into our system, but oddly, Leitch denied these very notions to our local newspaper as recently as yesterday.
The health innovation centre’s plan is to create “living laboratories” of the basic elements of health care: everything from paramedics to the doctor’s office, from the emergency room to the operating room. They especially would like to engage “consumers of health care” in technology. The white paper broaches the subject of health information technology in particular. It mentions expanding e-health into personal health records that patients can access from Microsoft, Google, Facebook or even their smartphones.
When I first heard this suggestion, I found myself quite alarmed. What about safety, privacy, fraud, misdiagnosis and cost to the patient? Overall, I thought it must be a theological argument. That was until Leitch made national headlines with her proposals.
The Financial Post article describes Leitch’s scenario of “a mother waking up to find her baby with an odd-looking rash. In an ideal health care environment, the mother can upload a picture of the rash to a website using her smartphone, be connected to live video conference with a doctor and have the proper ointment prescribed which she can pick up on her way to day care, without ever having to visit a hospital or clinic.”
Residents who’ve read the article have taken issue. Wasaga Beach has many senior citizens who aren’t always comfortable using smartphones. A lot of other residents are unemployed and can’t afford a cellphone or medical apps to receive service.
“Low-income families will not be able to access doctors through smartphone applications. The Wasaga Beach and surrounding area is already battling with severe unemployment, and many of the clients I work with have a hard time putting food on the table, let alone paying for internet,” says domestic violence worker Kim Stubbington. “I also work with older clients who wouldn’t be comfortable operating a smartphone or talking about their problems in the open.”
Then there are some who wonder how many times that rash could be misdiagnosed or medicine prescribed that may cause an adverse reaction. Would everyone know the difference between flesh eating disease, skin cancer and gout from a smartphone picture? Could it decipher between a sprain and a fracture? Apparently other companies have already seen the dollar signs and created a smartphone plugin that can detect cancer for just $200.
The UWO health sector MBA program that Leitch oversees seeks to cross-train our doctors, nurses and researchers as partners to big pharma and corporations with vested interest. The core curriculum consists of: pharmacoeconomics; intellectual property, licensing and the regulatory environment of health; health care management; financing private health care sector enterprise; managing the political and economic environment; and private health sector strategy.
Considering the names of the courses, I don’t think there’s any denying a private push for health care, and this is making a lot of folks uneasy. Leitch’s white paper also asserts we should discourage accomplished health professionals from leading our institutions if they haven’t completed her program. Controversial, indeed.
In Part 4, we’ll add Telus, TD Bank and the University of Toronto to the mix.