HIM&CC Guest Editorial

As we launch the e-Health 2014 Conference, my last as President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway, I find myself reflecting on my 30-year career in health care in Canada. I recently shared some of my thoughts and insights with COACH President Don Newsham, and you can read about them starting on page 16 of this issue.
Now, 30 years is a long time to work in one sector. Over those three decades that I’ve had the privilege of being part of the health informatics (HI) community, I have experienced so much – the highs, the lows, the frustrations and the successes. So much change, and such rapid change, especially in the past few years. But over this period of tremendous change, there is one constant that I could always count on – the passion of the people with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work. You are the best and brightest professionals I have ever encountered, and your hard work, dedication and commitment are truly inspiring. The work that you have done, and will continue to do, is having a tremendous impact on Canadians. It is improving their health and it is improving Canada’s health care system, and I am honoured to have been in your company.

As I leave my post there is no doubt in my mind that the things I cherish the most and that I will miss the most are the relationships I’ve had the great good fortune of forming over the years. When my friend, the late Steve Huesing brought together a handful of like-minded individuals to discuss the use of technology in health care at the first COACH conference, I wonder if he imagined what a legacy he would leave behind.

Our annual conference has certainly changed over the years, and as I reflect on the changes, I can’t help but notice how they in many ways parallel what’s going on in our HI community – the e-Health Conference is a microcosm of sorts. Let me give you a few examples.

Tremendous growth
First, let’s talk about size. The size of the conference, just like the size of the HI community, has grown substantially over the years. In the same way that we are attracting more and more people from diverse backgrounds to the conference, we are building and growing a strong HI professional community. We now have a number of colleges and universities across Canada that offer HI education at the undergraduate and graduate level, we have a CPHIMS-CA certification program for those who don’t have an HI degree but want to demonstrate their core competencies, and we have a strong national association in COACH. Our community is growing and our conference reflects this growth.

Breadth of the discussion
Similarly, the breadth and depth of the discussion has evolved. The conference, like the community, has grown from discussions about the “advancement of computers in health,” (a nod to the COACH name for those old enough to recall the acronym), to in-depth conversations about a variety of topics that are critical, like governance, policy, clinical adoption and benefits realization. We understand that these key technology enablers are imperative to our success. Our conference, like our community, offers important insights into these matters.

Impact through innovation
Finally, the HI community is making an impact, and by providing a forum to showcase and share innovative solutions, our conference is also making an impact. We have worked hard as a community to develop Canada’s digital health infrastructure, especially over the past decade, so the next step is to build on that solid foundation. There is tremendous opportunity over the next decade for us to contribute to innovations that will improve the patient experience and make the health system more accessible, more efficient and safer. Canadians are looking for innovative health care solutions, and change is happening more rapidly than ever before. We are all well aware of things like the explosion of health “apps” and the use of mobile devices by clinicians and patients. New and emerging technologies will play an even greater role in the coming years, and our HI community will be leading the way by analyzing opportunities and creating solutions that will benefit Canadians. Our e-Health 2014 Conference provides a perfect opportunity for us to compare notes, research and experiences, and determine where we could and should go from here. It’s the place to build relationships and start conversations that will continue long after we leave here, as we continue to collaborate on innovations that will make a difference for Canadians.

As I mentioned earlier, the importance of these relationships is the one constant among all of the changes I’ve seen in health informatics over the past three decades. Steve was definitely onto something when he created an annual event where people could come together to discuss, debate, share and exchange ideas in a collegial atmosphere. I’ve seen many new faces arrive on the scene over the years, although some of the old guys and gals like me are still around (and you know who you are!), but the HI community is still very much a community in the true sense of the word – a group of dedicated, hardworking individuals who are passionate about improving the health of Canadians.

I look forward to connecting with many of you over the next few days to continue that discussion about our shared passion. I also look forward to the continued success of this conference and of our HI community. I am extremely proud to have been a member of this community over the years, and though I will soon be leaving my post at Canada Health Infoway, I will always be with you in spirit.
I wish you all the best, and continued success!

Richard

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