According to the Frasier Institute, waiting for treatment has become a defining characteristic of Canadian healthcare.
In the 2018 report, “Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada”, specialist physicians surveyed report a median wait time of almost 20 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment, more than twice as long as in 1993, when it was just over nine weeks.
Canadians have some of the longest wait times for specialist appointments in the world. This means rising costs and delayed recovery.
Medical Confidence is using the IBM Cloud ecosystem to offer a service that empowers individuals to overcome the obstacles and delays commonly experienced in the Canadian healthcare system.
Healthcare in Canada
The Canadian public healthcare system is fraught with challenges. Multiple siloed systems are hard for patients to navigate. Where previously general practitioners and specialists would work together in a hospital setting, today they practice in separate offices, making communication and collaboration difficult. General practitioners tend to refer patients to the same group of specialists but haven’t necessarily taken into account the specialist’s area of expertise or their wait times for consultation and treatment. For example, they might refer someone who needs hip surgery to a surgeon that’s a shoulder specialist.
A patient could wait eight months or more only to find out that they didn’t complete the required testing in advance of the appointment or that the specialist really can’t treat their condition. Then they have to make a new appointment, or they’re referred to a specialist for a second time and the waiting period begins all over again. General practitioners often do not have the resources or time to provide the support patients need to navigate the system, so patients are left on their own.
A healthcare navigator
Medical Confidence acts as a patient’s healthcare navigator. The company created a directory with information derived from a large number of sources. The directory is constantly updated and currently includes close to 14,000 specialists. It can be sorted based on specialization, sub-specialization, gender, certifications, languages spoken and many other criteria.
Patients may access the Medical Confidence directory through their disability insurance, their employer or directly from the company. The first step is a medical assessment by a nurse. Next is a search in the Medical Confidence system to identify the most appropriate candidate specialist or specialists. The nurse will guide the patient through the process of getting a general practitioner referral, ensuring it is received by the specialist. Then the appointment is scheduled, and the nurse ensures the necessary diagnostics can be ordered and the results are in the hands of the specialist for the first appointment.
Ultimately, patients arrive well prepared for their appointments. Afterward, the nurse gets the clinical notes and reviews those with the patient to make sure the patient understands the recommendations and next steps.
Medical Confidence and IBM
Medical Confidence uses a variety of best-of-breed tools in its proprietary system, which runs on the IBM Cloud.
One of the reasons we chose IBM Cloud is the ecosystem that’s available to us. We can use both IBM products and open source products, which offers flexibility and room to grow.
Medical Confidence started with a focus and strong expertise in big data, integrating IBM Watson and predictive analytics with evidence-based health measurements. Members of the team have also worked closely with Canadian universities and colleges to pilot new healthcare navigation prototypes that were later updated to be production ready. Medical Confidence patent-pending algorithms are based on the largest Canadian physician specialist network. Analyses are used by Medical Confidence to optimize and streamline the selection process of candidate physician specialists from the company’s network which are shared with the patient and their general practitioner.
Then there’s security. We looked at quite a few cloud providers and found IBM security to be one of the better ones. All of our medical data must reside in Canada, and IBM has cloud data centers located in Toronto and Montreal that provide us with the security we require, as well as direct recovery capabilities between the two locations.
Also, the IBM sales and marketing team understands and responds to our stringent requirements.
Benefits to the whole system
Patients find that having their own personal coach is a big asset. Since they are seeing the correct specialist from the start and are more actively engaged in their treatment, many are recovering sooner.
We get great feedback from general practitioners and specialists, too. General practitioners like that we find appropriate specialists with reasonable wait times, draft referrals, keep an audit trail, and encourage collaboration between them and their patients.
Specialists are now receiving referrals that they know fall within their area of practice and can be confident their patients are well prepared for appointments. Organizations benefit with reduced health benefits costs and lower absenteeism. Employees that are engaged and more productive improve a company’s bottom line.
One Medical Confidence client shared that they are, on average, saving six months in the duration of a disability claim.
Even the Canadian public healthcare system is benefiting, and ultimately the taxpayer who funds it, because we’re driving out the inefficiencies and inherent delays.
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