Linguistic Variable for patients: the OHIP card could become smart!

The OHIP card as a tool for identifying Francophone patients, I’ve dreamt of it, we have all dreamt about it for several years, and the Ontario Legislative Assembly and its members have put it on the agenda!

Taking into account the linguistic variable has long been recognized as a critical issue in the patient and family experience. In their 2013 Joint Position Statement on the Linguistic Variable and in their report, Ontario’s French Language Health Planning Entities emphasized that the lack of evidence-based data “significantly limits the ability to analyse the health needs of francophone individuals and communities and hinders sound planning of health services that meet the needs of the population”.  They clearly outlined that establishing “Linguistic Identity” is critical in addressing this issue and filling the gaps.

That is why the motion tabled on October 4 by MPP Amanda Simard, who is also Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs, asking the government to add linguistic identity to the data contained in the OHIP card, is in my eyes a capital gesture. Especially since it was adopted unanimously! This represents a milestone in the prolonged effort that has involved a number of stakeholders, including the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, and resulted in the selection of the Registered Person Database (RPDB) as a tool for collecting linguistic identity data, maximizing gains through the use of digital systems.

In my last 2017-2018 Annual Report, I underline that the use of big data for public service planning requires the creation of this linguistic identifier to meet the challenges of our time (growth and aging of the population, costs of health) and to provide appropriate health services. Of course, it will be essential to take into account the Inclusive Definition of Francophone (IDF) when choosing the questions to determine linguistic identity. We will be on the lookout not only for the questions that will be asked, but by whom, when and in what context, when the time comes. The game is not yet won and will require everyone’s cooperation, starting with public servants, but also with the French-speaking public who will have to be informed about the need to identify themselves as francophone. It will be necessary to convince this public that to identify themselves as francophone will not mean longer wait-times for services!

The benefit of this identification will remain individual. For example, a senior’s vulnerability reduces their confidence and ability to seek care in French. This new enhanced OHIP card would speak for them.

Beyond this immense benefit for the patients themselves, the inclusion and collection of linguistic variables will enable the government to measure, take into account and respond to the needs of Francophones to be served in their language: planning, anticipating, and allocating services more efficiently. Obviously, with this approach, we can only hope for a concrete implementation of the capital concept of active offer.



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