Nearly 60 per cent of women fear going to hospitals or health care centres and almost half report being disappointed by the care they receive, according to a major survey of women across Ontario.
The survey, commissioned by Toronto's Women's College Hospital and released on Tuesday, also found the majority of women in Ontario experience anxiety when having to go to a hospital, doctor's office or health clinic, and that they want the option to be treated as outpatients rather than being admitted to hospitals.
In addition, 70 per cent of women surveyed said they feel like they were pushed through the health system as quickly as possible and that their concerns and needs aren't being heard.
"These are high numbers," said Lorraine Lipscombe, physician and research scientist at Women's College. "This is a majority of women who are not having a good experience … with the health care system."
The hospital conducted a survey of nearly 600 women of different ages, backgrounds and income levels across Ontario and are using the responses to help guide its plans for redevelopment. The hospital is about to be rebuilt as a new facility that focuses on treating people on an outpatient basis, allowing them to remain at home instead of staying in there.
The concept is part of an emerging area of health care that emphasizes designing facilities around the needs of patients and trying to prevent illness rather than treating sickness.
A growing number of hospitals across Canada are looking to incorporate innovative design features and patient-focused practices in order to help people heal faster and stay in hospitals for shorter periods.
Women's College Hospital has put these ideas at the forefront of its redevelopment, which is expected to be complete in 2016. Hospital officials commissioned the survey of Ontario women and also conducted focus groups and online community forums to speak to a broad range of women about what they want from the health care system.
In addition to feeling anxious and disappointed, nearly 30 per cent of women surveyed said they feel angry and close to half feel confused when dealing with the health care system, while 36 per cent of respondents report feeling disrespected by their health care providers.
The survey was conducted by Leger Marketing between April 20 and 28 and has a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Dr. Lipscombe said the results reflect the fact the health care system was designed to focus on acute care, or treating patients who have specific problems on a short-term basis. But that system doesn't necessarily reflect the complex needs of patients today, she said, a problem that needs to be urgently dealt with as the population ages.
"We need to be considering different models of health care, particularly for women and particularly for people who are living with chronic conditions," Dr. Lipscombe said.
Under the new model of care being looked at by Women's College, patients would be able to receive continuing care on an outpatient basis and be able to better collaborate with their health care providers.
The majority of women involved in the survey said they wanted more support in the community to help in their recovery and a hospital that can accommodate their cultural beliefs.
But the underlying premise is that health care must revolve around preventing illness, according to the president and chief executive officer of the hospital.
"This is the future," Marilyn Emery said. "The future is health care that's designed to keep people out of hospital."