COACH Members are Co-Creating Our Future Digital Health System

Mark Casselman joined COACH as the Chief Executive Officer on June 1, 2015. Since then, he has spent time focusing on building the COACH membership program and enhancing the overall member experience. Here is a brief look at his ideas on this subject.

Why is membership such a high priority for you?
“Members are the true heartbeat of our association as well as the driving force behind the future of digital health in this country. COACH needs to continue to provide strong support for the executives, clinicians, researchers, educators, vendors, technology experts, innovators, entrepreneurs and many other types of health informatics (HI) professionals, as well as member organizations, making up our association. They are coping with rapid-fire change inside and outside of our traditional industry boundaries that is now beginning to impact the health system and transform care delivery models. COACH is focused on bringing together all of the segments of our digital health ecosystem – both traditional players and new entrants – to enhance the quality, speed and impact of knowledge exchange, development of professional resources and collaboration opportunities across sectors and across the country.

“We are focused on meeting members’ new and emerging needs through three core areas:

  • national, regional and virtual networking events that bring together diverse groups of professionals;
  • delivery of training, education and resources to enhance individual and institutional professionalism and skill development; and,
  • national thought leadership and co-creation of new models for health service delivery enabled by leading practices in digital health. “We work collaboratively with our members and strong base of volunteers to deliver on the association’s commitment to supporting Canadians in achieving good health and receiving quality care. As per the Strategic Plan:

‘Empowering people with information about their own health, arming clinicians with information to better treat patients, providing medical care at a distance, supporting all health providers through mobile technologies and transforming the health system through evidence-based practices and effective data analytics will collectively improve the care for Canadians. HI is a path to those better health outcomes.’”

What is the best way to meet members’ needs?
“The number one thing is to create opportunities to connect members together, understand challenges and opportunities and generate a platform for collaborative work that builds value for our profession. COACH needs to hear from members about their specific needs and challenges – and where they are seeing the opportunities in our system. This is why the COACH executive team and Board of Directors are closely examining the results of the 2015 member survey, completed in July. It includes the following key findings.

  • The top reasons for joining COACH, cited by 67% of respondents, are:
    1. Professional development
    2. Networking
    3. Discounts on e-Health Conference and other events.
  • COACH has value for members’ career development and the HI profession.
    • 79% said COACH is Extremely Valuable or Valuable to the HI profession.
    • 62% said COACH is Extremely Valuable or Valuable to their career.
  • Among the requests on members’ wish lists are: more networking opportunities for all levels and more opportunities for education and mentorship

“One-on-one discussion with individual members and member institutions is also vitally important. I have enjoyed many productive exchanges with members at various events, including e-Health 2015 and the CHIEF: Canada’s Health Informatics Executive Forum Fall Symposium, and I look forward to making the same connections at HealthAchieve, particularly at the e-HealthAchieve Forum, presented in partnership with COACH.”

What are members’ most important needs at this time?
“Our profession faces the constant challenge of delivering effective, safe, quality health services on a daily basis while attempting to keep up with the speed of change related to mobile health, virtual care, telehealth and the Internet of Things. Balancing the traditional service needs of the enterprise with the rapidly emerging service needs of individuals engaging with the enterprise (patients, family, staff, clinicians) is difficult. COACH must do everything it can to ensure members have access to the most up-to-date information about new service delivery models, technology and data, best practices, lessons learned and research. This is why we expanded the COACH member webinar program to weekly Webinar Wednesday sessions, and are examining opportunities around expanding our training and education tools and services.

“We are also looking at enhancing networking opportunities as part of the COACH member experience. This is a critical enabler for brainstorming innovative solutions, co-creating professional tools and tackling important problems with fresh, new perspectives. One example of this kind of collaborative effort is the recently published CHIEF Discussion Papers, where newer HI professionals and executive industry leaders teamed up to produce content on current, challenging topics. (See more in President Mike Barron’s column elsewhere in this issue.) We know that enabling connections to enhance individual, institutional and system-level development is at the core of what we do. Networking is one of the main reasons, second only to professional development (see above), that individuals join COACH.”

What else will be involved with maximizing the member experience?
“Identifying and iteratively addressing the many changes on the horizon for healthcare, and their impact on HI professionals, is an absolute MUST. In this field, where change is a constant, COACH is committed to staying ahead of the curve – and we will work closely with all members to help them define the future for themselves as professionals, for their organizations, for the industry and for the health of Canadians. One of COACH’s greatest strengths as an association over the years has been bringing people together and fostering the connections that ignite amazing ideas.

“Our founders had remarkable vision around the value of collaboration and bringing people with different points of view together to make technology work in healthcare. Now, as we move forward to a health system experiencing a major, foundational shift, this kind of teamwork is more important than ever. Our membership is made up of a vast array of intelligent, innovative individuals who are truly passionate about what they do. COACH continues to pursue excellence across all aspects of the membership experience and supporting HI professionals in delivering the digital health system of the future.

“If you’re a COACH member, we will be reaching out to you in a variety of ways. And, I welcome your feedback at any time on Twitter at @markcasselman or by email at”

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