Auditor general reports on high cost of chronic illness in Alberta

The Canadian Press
September 10, 2014
By The Canadian Press
Alberta's auditor general says caring for people with chronic health problems is costing the provincial government billions of dollars each year. Merwan Saher says in a report that conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes are the biggest challenges facing health care.
Saher looked at figures from 2012 and 2013 when about 735,000 people in the province were known to have at least one chronic ailment.

The cost to the health-care system at that time was $4.5 billion.

That figure didn't include lab tests, long-term care and home care.

Saher's report points out that the top 10 per cent of health-care users – most of whom have at least one chronic condition – account for more than 75 per cent of health-care spending.

He suggests the way to lower that cost is to slow progression of diseases by better managing their conditions.

The auditor's report also says Alberta generally does a good job providing care for people with chronic diseases, but the care tends to be fragmented.

Saher says no one has overall responsibility for making sure all health-care providers are working together or that everyone is receiving the same level of care.

His 18 recommendations include stronger supports for family doctors and more information sharing between different health-care sectors.

He urges that nine of his recommendations should be addressed within a year, including one that suggests Alberta Health Services identify and provide care to patients who don't have a family doctor.

Another nine recommendations are longer-term and deal with health-care organization and outcomes.

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