Perspectives is the quarterly newsletter of the New Brunswick Health Council

In this issue...

Stéphane Robichaud
CEO of the NBHC

Message from the CEO

As we begin a new calendar year, January also marks the entry into the last quarter of our fiscal year.  This is a very busy period for many and it is also the case for the NBHC.  Annual updates for two key reporting tools, the Health System Report Card and the Population Health Snapshot, will be made public in this quarter.  We will also be releasing the results of our latest survey on primary health, which is our most extensive survey with over 13,500 responses.  These various reports will provide an opportunity to inform citizens on population health and health service quality.

From an NBHC operations perspective, planning is a key theme for the fourth quarter.  By law, the NBHC is required to provide an annual Business Plan to the Minister of Health for each fiscal year.  Planning is an ongoing process.  Meanwhile, there needs to be a commitment to some basic elements if any plans are to be translated into actions and timely results.  For the NBHC, this includes the approval of a plan, with deliverables and timelines, at the beginning of each fiscal year.

Although new ideas may come up throughout the year, the Business Plan deliverables are the priorities.  Through working group meetings, Council members can follow the progress of the Business Plan.  There is a mid-year progress report and a year-end report that provides a base for preparing the following year’s Business Plan.  It may sound simple, but there needs to be a combination of sustained focus and discipline in order to make it work.  We learned early on that there is no lack of reasons to change or drop commitments. Weak planning makes for weak plans, but even the best of plans require adjustments along the way.  Plan the work, work the plan.

As a provincial public organization, we must also consider the political cycle as we are planning. There is now a new government and any new directions or priorities must be included in the planning process.  This is done through on-going communications and should be seen as part of the working environment.  Unfortunately, for too many in the public sector, the political reality is seen as a reason for not having proper plans. 
The Regional Health Authorities Act outlines how health services’ planning is meant to be done.  It outlines the components of a Provincial Health Plan and details the responsibilities for regional health authorities and the Minister of Health.  If you’re interested, follow the link to this document that outlines the annual planning cycle for health system organizations.  All health system organizations should be part of an annual planning cycle that recognizes respective roles and responsibilities. 

On behalf of the New Brunswick Health Council members and its employees, I wish you all a happy, prosperous and healthy 2015 - and may all your plans succeed.

Our Upcoming Publications 

Every year, the NBHC publishes various tools, including the Health System Report Card and the Population Health Snapshot. These tools will be coming out in the next few months, so we would like to give you a brief overview.

The Health System Report Card is the fifth of its kind; the first Report Card was published in 2010 and presented 48 indicators, compared to over 100 this year. This Report Card facilitates the use of data for measuring and monitoring key programs and services in the province and for understanding how New Brunswick fares compared to other provinces. Most of the indicators were based on high-cost or high-volume program and service areas and represent the four sectors of care: primary health, acute care, support and specialty (also called continuous care) and palliative or end-of-life care.

The Report Card produces letter grades, very similar to how a school report card would, according to the six dimensions of quality the NBHC reports on: Accessibility, Appropriateness, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Safety and Equity. An overall grade is calculated for each dimension from a combination of relevant indicators. A seven-letter scale is created, from “F” to “A+”, using the best score in the country as an A+ and the worst as an F. This Report Card will be available online on the NBHC website in February.

The Snapshot focuses on population health and presents indicators falling in one of two categories:  Health Status or Health Determinants (itself subdivided into Health Care, Health Behaviours, Socioeconomic Factors and Physical Environment).  The goal of the Snapshot is to inform citizens, communities, and organizations about their health status with respect to the population in which they live. The information is available on one page, and presented in a language that is clear and easy to understand. Moreover, the back of the Snapshot paints a demographic profile and lists the 10 most common chronic conditions and the 10 most frequent hospital admissions. The new Snapshot will be available on the NBHC website in January. 

Did you know?

In 2011, we flagged accessibility to primary health services - such as accessibility to one's family doctor - as an area for improvement in New Brunswick.

These numbers are from 2011. In our upcoming primary health report in February, we will see if improvements have been made.

Latest News

To mark International Children Right’s Day, in November, the NBHC published four fact sheets to highlight four key areas related to the health of children and youth in the province: achieving healthy weights, improving mental health, preventing injuries and achieving tobacco-free living. They can be viewed here:
Did you know?

Unfortunately, significantly more individuals in New Brunswick have chronic health conditions than in other provinces.

To find out the prevalence of these chronic health conditions in your community, you can consult our primary health report of 2011. The numbers will be updated in February in our 2014 report.

Primary Health Survey 

The NBHC is getting ready to publish the results of its second survey on primary health. Like last time, the goal of the survey is to understand and report on the experiences of New Brunswickers with primary health services: moreover, it will be possible to compare the results from 2011 to the new results from 2014 to see what improvements can be seen in primary health.

When we talk about primary health, we are talking about care that usually includes health maintenance, care for urgent but minor health issues, mental health care, infant and children care, psychosocial services, coordination with home care, health promotion and disease prevention, nutrition consultations and palliative (or end-of-life) care.   

Survey results in 2011 have revealed large variations across communities with respect to the quality of primary health services.

Overall, 93% of New Brunswickers reported having a family doctor in 2011. The 2011 survey results also show a great variation when it comes to accessibility to a doctor from 82% to 98% in some communities.

When asked how quickly an appointment can be made with their family doctor when sick or in need of care, 30% of New Brunswickers said they could get an appointment on the same day or next day. Again, when looking at the 2011 survey results across communities, this accessibility indicator varies from 14% to 63%, revealing a large disparity between communities in the province.

We will highlight these types of variations in our 2014 report, in addition to providing information regarding new indicators, as listed below:

New indicators in 2014
  • Family doctor with extended office hours (after 5 pm or on weekends)
  • Citizens with a chronic health condition who are confident in controlling and managing their health condition
  • Citizens who are limited in doing activities because of a physical or mental condition, or a health problem (this is our first time identifying persons with disabilities)
Have primary health services improved between 2011 and 2014, particularly under accessibility? In our 2014 report, the format of our indicator tables will be designed so that survey results at the community level can be compared to 2011 results, and comparisons can also be made between each of the 33 communities.

The results of the first survey are available here:

Did you know?

New Brunswickers visit the emergency department more often than the average Canadian. Using the emergency department for matters not necessarily urgent is not ideal, as other health services could be more appropriate (family doctor, after-hours clinics or Tele-Care).

These numbers are from 2011; in our upcoming primary health report, we will see whether the situation has changed or not.
The NBHC has been established as an independent organization that measures, monitors and evaluates New Brunswick’s health care system performance and population health, and that engages citizens in the improvement of health service quality.
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