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International report compares seniors care in Canada to that in other developed countries: here are four paradoxical findings

In 2017, The Commonwealth Fund published an international report on seniors health care across 11 developed countries.

More than 4,500 Canadian seniors (ages 65 years and over) were surveyed for the report, as were thousands of their contemporaries in Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Then, in February 2018, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released How Canada Compares: Results From The Commonwealth Fund’s 2017 International Health Policy Survey of Seniors, providing a “deeper dive” into Canadians’ responses and looking at how their responses compared with those of seniors in the other 10 countries.

The results were interesting, even surprising — in fact, there were a few paradoxes.

Here are just four insights from the CIHI report:

#1: Canadian seniors rank lowest in health care satisfaction

Even though Canada spends more on health care than almost every other comparable country with universal care, Canadian seniors ranked last in terms of satisfaction with the quality of the health care they received.

In fact, only 67% said they were completely or very satisfied — well below the highest score of 84% (among Swiss seniors), and still below the international average of 76%.

#2: Respondents say they are healthy, but many have multiple chronic conditions

Just over 80% of Canadian seniors surveyed rated their own health as excellent, very good or good. Canada tied with Australia for second place among the surveyed countries in terms of self-perceived health. New Zealand ranked first (at 88%).

However, the report also showed that many seniors face problems with their health and well-being — far more so than seniors in most other surveyed countries. For example, a third of Canadian respondents live with at least three chronic conditions. Only in the United States did more seniors report they were living with at least three chronic conditions.

#3: Canadian seniors have mixed feelings about primary care

Canada performed below the international average for timely access to primary care, with 59% of seniors reporting being unable to get a same- or next-day appointment and 62% reporting having trouble getting care after hours (without going to the emergency department).                        

That said, Canadian seniors seem to have better one-on-one experiences with their primary health care providers than their counterparts in most other countries. More than 80% of Canadians reported having a medication review within the past 12 months, as well as a treatment plan for chronic conditions. They also reported satisfaction in terms of their doctor involving them in medical decisions and encouraging them to ask questions.

#4: Seniors are quite pleased with coordination, but they are waiting much longer for specialists

In the report, 82% of Canadian seniors said their regular doctor coordinated care with specialists from other places; Canada scored above the international average on this subject.

However, Canadian seniors also reported the longest wait times for specialists, with three out of five waiting at least four weeks for an appointment. Moreover, one in four Canadian seniors waited at least two months to see a specialist in 2017.

Learn more

The CIHI report also covered issues including mental health, home care, end-of-life planning and how income affects seniors’ access to universal health care.

For a closer look at the results, including a breakdown of responses by province/territory, visit the CIHI website here.