The burdens still exist in Canadian healthcare

How a few small changes can make the difference

When discussing healthcare, many Canadians give themselves a pat on the back for having a “free” system compared to those neighbours of ours down south. Spending a couple of hours in a waiting room seems hardly a burden when the care is free. 

As fortunate as we Canadians are to not have to pay thousands of dollars to visit a doctor, I still often find myself complaining about some aspects of our healthcare system.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware of how lucky we are to live in a country where we have the ability to dial three numbers and have a well-equipped paramedic arrive at our door. In my eyes, however, there are many improvements that could be made.

At some point, I think we have to stop praising ourselves for having a system that, at face value, seems better than that of the US. Instead of focusing on what we do well, Canadians should instead start to think about how we can improve upon our shortcomings.  One positive step forward we can make is to eliminate miscommunications between healthcare providers to allow for more efficient and effective healthcare.

After four years of solely studying theory and human anatomy, doctors often lack the personable skills needed to interact with patients face-to-face. We all know how hard it is to get into medical school, however, things need to change in order to bring competent doctors into the working world.

These doctors shouldn’t just possess the knowledge and practical skills to treat us, they should also have the ability to discuss symptoms calmly and effectively with patients.

I’m told I need to “find the good doctors and stick with them,” but shouldn’t the education process produce capable and conscientious doctors across the board? Health is important to everyone and in stressful times of sickness or pain, we don’t want to be brushed off, sent away or lectured with medical jargon we don’t understand.

Doctors need to tell us what’s going on calmly and clearly — not confuse and frustrate us even more.

I understand wait times will never be completely eliminated, but improvements do need to be made to reduce the time spent in between appointments. I’ve called my doctor’s secretary before to schedule a visit and they tell me the only available time is three weeks away.

By the time I finally get a visit, there’s still no definitive answer for me; just my name on a four-month-long waiting list to see a specialist. With the rise of technology, you’d think more effective systems would be in place to allow for more doctor’s appointments and less lags in communication.

As we wait, we often turn to other sources to find answers. Looking up our symptoms on websites like Web MD is something we’re told to stay away from because it can lead to misdiagnoses and the onset of panic.

But when we’re waiting weeks to see a doctor and symptoms are worsening, what else are we expected to do?

Speaking of technology, electronic medical records are starting to be implemented in Canada. Still, there has yet to be a nation-wide system put in place in which all records are accessible to healthcare providers. This is partially because both doctors and patients have expressed concerns around potential security and liability issues in the case of a breach releasing records for the entire population.

I think we can look at the benefits of electronic medical records in a different way. In this day and age, everyone shares an obscene amount of details about their private lives on the internet via social media. Even banks — enormous corporations that hold most of our money — have our personal information. So why do we feel we can’t trust a secure drive with our medical records?

Perhaps an accident occurs to someone when they’re travelling outside the province, or even just a city away. Having immediate access to medical history would be convenient. By providing critical information needed for proper treatment, it could potentially save the lives of many. 

There’s nothing people care about more than their health or the well-being of a loved one. The last thing anyone wants is to fall ill or become injured and then also not have access to necessary medical information. In a case of emergency, the convenience and amount of time we’d save in accessing our records via a nation-wide filing system would well outweigh the costs of an unlikely security breach.

Though healthcare will most definitely never be perfect, minor adjustments to our current system could allow things to run a lot smoother. We must try to eliminate the wasted time and frustrations created by poor communication and in turn, develop ways to access healthcare more efficiently.

We must always remember the privilege we have of living in Canada where healthcare is free and available. But even though we should be grateful, we should still work towards making improvements.

Erika is a fourth year biology student.

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