An injection of cash into the health-care system might make Canadians feel better in the short run, but there will be no long-lasting benefits unless there is a mechanism to make sure some of the money gets spent on information and communications technologies, a recent report warns.

According

to Health Care System Sustainability — Understanding Health System Performance of Leading Countries, produced by the Conference Board of Canada, Canada ranks 13th in overall performance among 24 OECD countries.

Switzerland, which has an expensive, private system, came first, while Sweden, whose system is publicly funded, came second. That means the solutions politicians continue to suggest – namely more money and either more or less privatization, depending on the party – are way off track, said CBOC director of health programs Glen Roberts.

“”We reached the conclusion that perhaps the system does need more money, but it also needs to enhance its management practices.””

The report is a follow-up to the March 2004 study the board did on understanding health-care cost drivers.

Both are available as free downloads from the board’s Web site.

And while the board is recommending Canada increase its IT spend in health care to at least four or five per cent, up from the current 1.8 to 2.5 per cent, simply increasing IT spending won’t solve the problems either, he said. “”I think the real issue in particular in Ontario is governments are not funding ICT as a line item,””

Roberts said. “”They give hospitals global budgets and they hope they have the strength of conviction. I sat on a hospital board not that long ago where we were confronted with this tough decision — do we buy an expensive computer or do we keep our nurses? It’s a very challenging leadership question boards have to struggle with, which ultimately staffs have to struggle with.””

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