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Patients to come first in healthcare shake-up, minister promises

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Patients will be the main focus of a new universal health coverage plan, the Minister of Health said on Friday.

Kim Wilson told the House of Assembly that a three-year plan would begin with a “foundational” layer to include projects highlighted in the Throne Speech.

She said that, although the Covid-19 pandemic had delayed work on plans for universal health coverage, the interruption provided time for the ministry to work with a steering committee “to develop a refreshed approach to health system change”.

Ms Wilson added: “As a result, the many actions identified as necessary to strengthen Bermuda’s health system are based on, and framed by, a patient-focused approach that puts patient experiences and outcomes at the centre of the work on universal health coverage.”

The steering committee includes representatives of think tank Bermuda First, the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association, the Bermuda Health Council, the Bermuda Hospitals Board, the Health Insurance Department and the Ministry of Finance as well as a patient representative.

Ms Wilson said that the committee’s work was supported by financial services firm KPMG.

She added that Year 1 of an initial three-year “road map for universal health coverage” was “foundational in nature” and three of the projects were highlighted in last week’s Throne Speech.

They included the creation of a digital health strategy designed to be more efficient for patients, healthcare providers and insurance companies.

Another was the “integrated patient pathway for essential care”.

Ms Wilson explained: “Implementing a ‘patient pathway’ approach, which focuses on a patient’s journey or pathway through the healthcare system, allows us to examine the fragmented components of healthcare and the costs involved at each point that care is delivered.

“A pathway can be a particular patient group – such as maternal-child care – or disease – such as kidney disease or heart disease.

“By following a pathway from start to finish, we can better see opportunities to improve patient experiences and outcomes, and address any duplicative, wasteful use of resources.”

The first 12 months is also expected to include steps to merge the administrations of the Health Insurance Plan and FutureCare, the Government healthcare plans.

Ms Wilson said that the other Year 1 tasks were to set up an organisational structure for governance, which will include new working groups, determine baselines such as those for health needs and metrics to measure performance and the establishment of “the economic case for strengthening our health system”.

She told the House: “Vitally important for the work on universal health coverage is the engagement of, and collaboration with, the broad group of stakeholders who form part of Bermuda’s health system.

“We have a direction of travel but there are many questions to answer and decisions to make that will need broader input than is represented solely by the UHC Steering Committee or the ministry itself.

“In the coming weeks, the ministry will be meeting with the executive and membership of those represented on the steering committee, as well as the private insurers, Bermuda Medical Council and Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, Bermuda Employers Council, Abir, Abic, our union leaders and others.”

Ms Wilson said: “The purpose is to share the road map for achieving universal health coverage and the work done so far, and, most importantly, the work still to be done.

“We know their insight and feedback will be invaluable as we improve healthcare access, experience and outcomes for all who live here.”

She warned that people also had a personal responsibility for their health.

Ms Wilson said: “With or without universal health coverage, the Ministry of Health seeks to empower the community to lead healthy lifestyles.

“To do so, the Department of Health provides information and tools for individuals to take charge of their health.

“Lifestyle is the cause of many common chronic diseases – and that means it can also be part of treating and even reversing them.”

She added that the department’s Healthy Eating and Active Living programme had several schemes to help people.

She highlighted the Complete Health Improvement Programme, which was “designed to help support and facilitate the prevention, treatment, and reversal of chronic disease” through group sessions.

MPs also heard that “Grow Eat Save” was a free, eight-week gardening course.

Ms Wilson said: “Attendees learn to be sustainable in providing some food to their families during these difficult times.”

A pilot programme – Hearts – is to be launched next January "to implement evidenced-based hypertension and diabetes protocols to improve the management of cardiovascular health in primary care.“

Ms Wilson said: “These are only a few examples of the wellness initiatives available through the Department of Health.

“We fully recognise the fundamental role of prevention in contributing to healthy outcomes and a sustainable health system.”

* To read the minister’s remarks in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

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Published November 15, 2021 at 7:52 am (Updated November 15, 2021 at 7:52 am)

Patients to come first in healthcare shake-up, minister promises

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