Toronto doctor who gave U.S. Senator a lesson on health care outlines her '6 big ideas' for Canada
A doctor who was praised for her calm defence of universal health care when she spoke before a powerful group of U.S. politicians in 2014 has written a new book outlining her vision for improving the quality of Canada’s health care system.
Nearly three years ago, Dr. Danielle Martin made international headlines after calmly and succinctly defending universal care when she testified at U.S. Senate sub-committee hearing examining Obamacare.
Video of her testimony went viral on YouTube, with more than 1.4 million views. Martin has since been named one of Canada’s most powerful doctors by The Medical Post.
With her new book, “Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians,” Martin is on a mission to bolster health care and reduce wait times across the country.
The six ideas outlined in Martin’s book are:
- Ensure every Canadian has regular access to a family doctor or other primary care provider
- Bring prescription drugs under medicare
- Reduce unnecessary tests and interventions
- Recognize health care delivery to reduce wait times and improve quality
- Implement a basic income guarantee to alleviate poverty, which is a major threat to health
- Scale up successful local innovations to a national level
“I’m a family doctor working in the system every day, so I see the challenges and the cracks that my patients experience as they work their way through the system,” Martin said on CTV’s Your Morning Wednesday. “But I think we’ve been stuck in a conversation about, ‘is the system good or is it bad? Is medicare worth preserving or do we just get rid of it?’
“And I think that that has stopped us from really focusing on the conversation we should be having which is, ‘How do we make it better?’”
One of Martin’s ideas is ensuring that every Canadian has regular access to a family doctor or other primary care provider.
The difficulty in getting a doctor’s appointment in a timely fashion, she said, has spurred the “rise” of the use of walk-in clinics, “where people are getting convenient access to care but not necessarily the kind of relationship-based health care that we know is really the best things for our health.”
In addition, she said there must be better communication between family physicians and the rest of the health-care system.
“I was in my office yesterday, and I discovered that a patient of mine had been admitted to the hospital who had a heart attack in a hospital just a few blocks from my office, but she had already been discharged and gone home and I had no idea that she had ever been in the hospital,” Martin said. “So we need to improve that communication.”
Solution for wait times?
Martin said she wants to push back against the presumption that more is always better when it comes to health care. To reduce wait times, Martin suggests in her book that rather than surgeons keeping their own wait list, they should come together to create a shared list. In that scenario, a patient would be referred to a centralized list and then seen by the next available doctor.
Martin said a centralized wait list wouldn’t require more money – just a different way of thinking.
Creating “team-based” care that involves not only doctors but nurse practitioners, dietitians, physiotherapists and other health-care workers would also help the system because it would improve access to care, reduce wait times and be less costly for the system overall, Martin said. “In fact, sometimes a doctor is not the best person for you to see.”
Unnecessary tests and interventions are also clogging up the system.
“We know for example, that almost one in three medical imaging procedures, whether it X-ray, MRI, CT (scan), ultrasound contributes no useful information to the management of that person’s case,” Martin said.
Everyone should have access to such tests, “but if it’s not going to improve your health, or perhaps even harm you, we shouldn’t be doing it.”
Watch the video to learn about Martin’s ideas to bolster Canada’s health-care system.