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Osteoarthritis: Be aware of a better care option

by Dr. Joshua Tepper

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and a leading cause of disability.

With an estimated 5.6 million Canadians suffering from osteoarthritis and that number expected to increase significantly as the population ages, the condition still has no cure and can be difficult to manage effectively. In Ontario, people with osteoarthritis report a quality of life 10% to 25% lower than those without osteoarthritis, and they incur health care costs two to three times higher. Despite the seriousness of this situation, osteoarthritis is often underdiagnosed and undertreated.

Osteoarthritis is just one of several musculoskeletal conditions that affects one in three Ontario adults. Recently released wait-time data that can be found on the Health Quality Ontario website shows that patients with these conditions spend the most time waiting to access health-care services, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) even though that may not be the best treatment option. In addition, uncontrolled knee, hip and back pain has been associated with inappropriate use of opioids.

To address this, an approach to redesign and innovate the current model of care in Ontario will help people access the right treatment faster, starting with osteoarthritis and other conditions causing hip, knee and low-back pain.

ARTIC + Quality Standards: Spreading Quality Care

Earlier this year, Globe and Mail health writer André Picard wrote a column about innovation in health care. “One of the most frustrating traits of the Canadian health-care system is its failure to recognize and embrace success,” he began. “Imagine if we took all our successful local innovations and pilot programs and actually implemented them on a larger scale,” he wrote later.

Wait Times: A Metric to Watch

Dr. Joshua Tepper

Earlier this summer, Health Quality Ontario revamped its public reporting on wait times to make it more user-friendly. We also added reporting on the wait time between a specialist receiving the referral from the patient's family doctor, to the patient's first surgical or specialist appointment, to gain a fuller picture of the patient experience.

Since then, the data has been used on numerous occasions to document how well or badly one hospital is doing compared to the rest of the province. There have also been almost 100,000 page views of the wait times pages on the Health Quality Ontario website since their launch. Interest in the information remains strong and there were more than 13,000 page views of the nine wait times measures pages between mid-November and mid-December.

ARTIC: Bringing Innovation in from the Cold

Dr. Joshua Tepper

“When it comes to moving health care practices forward efficiently, Canada is a country of perpetual pilot projects. We seldom move proven projects into stable, funded programs, and we rarely transfer the outcomes of pilot projects across jurisdictions. This approach is not serving our health care system well.”

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