Cutting through the Fog 2017
Health Environmental Scan

What are the trends shaping Canada’s healthcare system?

This document aims to answer that question by providing a current overview of indicators, statistics and emerging developments, grouped under five themes.


Political Environment

New government, new priorities

The new federal government has highlighted home care, mental health, prescription medicines, substance abuse, indigenous health, public health and the legalization of marijuana as priorities moving forward. Individual bi-lateral funding agreements have been established with the provinces and territories with a focus on tying funding increases to nominal GDP, set targeted funds for home care and mental health initiatives, and a commitment to develop performance indicators.


Provincial developments

Disputes around extra-billing in the provinces of British Columbia, Quebec and Saskatchewan highlight the tensions that persist regarding the role of the private sector in health care. Contentious negotiations between the Ontario doctors and their provincial government regarding a physician services agreement highlight the oft-strained relations between the medical community and governments.


Game changing issues

The legalization of marijuana, medical assistance in dying (MAiD) and how to address the opioid crisis are generating intense public interest and impacting health policies and the medical profession.
Explore today’s healthcare topics

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Economic environment

Tracking our healthcare dollars

Total spending on healthcare in Canada is estimated to be $228.1 billion (2016). Canada’s health expenditure, as a proportion of GDP, is above various peer OECD countries.

The public-private sector share of total health expenditure has remained stable, maintaining approximately a ‘70-30’ split proportionately since 1997.

Hospitals, drugs and physicians are the three largest components of health care spending, amounting up to $131.3 billion, 60.8% of total health expenditures (2014).
View the full economic picture

Socio-demographic environment

How healthy are we?

Canada’s population is over 36 million, increasingly urban, and aging rapidly. Cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases are among the leading causes of death. Smoking rates have declined over time while the rate of obesity trends upwards.

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There is a pressing need to address the social, cultural and economic determinants of health of Indigenous peoples, in order to close the ‘wellness’ gap compared to the non-Indigenous population.
Our citizens’ health revealed

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Healthcare system environment

How do we measure up?

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Progress toward national wait time benchmarks show mixed results, with wait times for some procedures improving while others stagnate. Also, variances in provincial wait times highlight the disparities in access that persist for Canadians.

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Having the right number, mix and distribution of physicians can improve access to health services – we break down number of licensed physicians and new graduates, where they work, and workforce trends in healthcare.
More on access to health care

Technological environment

The future is now

How widely available are Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Electronic Medical Records (EMR)? The National Physician Survey states 77.8% of physicians using a mix of paper and electronic records, and they weigh in on the pros and cons of accessing EMRs.

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Digital health solutions such as telehealth, e-booking, e-visits, online consultations and referrals are increasingly being deployed to care for Canadians.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and 3-D printing may potentially drive significant changes to the delivery of health care.
How technology is influencing healthcare

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Have questions, comments or suggestions?
Contact us at: healthpolicy@royalcollege.ca