Leadership in eHealth – is it Mythical?

Once upon a time there was a dream… an EHR for all Canadians…. Perhaps it was a unicorn (remember that analogy) – something people believe exists, but no-one has seen.

And so it started – a multi-year, multi-billion dollar journey to equip care providers and consumers with access to their health records. Some say it has been a failure, some a success. Either way you look at it, we have transformed the landscape on information and technology-enabled care provision. We have put health technology front and centre in the transformation debate, and achieved general consensus that as a country we will no longer be able to hold on to our prized health system absent a technology-fuelled revolution.

But this article is not about that, it is about leadership.

In many ways having the dream, or vision, is the easy part. The hard part is translating that into a series of carefully orchestrated actions that build on each other to, one day, realize that vision.

Peter Drucker defines leadership as: ”not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes”.

Along the way to realizing the vision, not everyone is going to agree or even commit to play their part in this journey. Some may play along but in a passive-aggressive sort of way; complying but not committing. But through this the real leaders are truly committed. They do not have the luxury of being able to sit on the sidelines and snipe. They cannot avoid the criticism and attacks by those that do not agree with the tactics. In many cases they may not even know where the attacks are coming from – social media has a great way of allowing disgruntled folks to attack anonymously or through others. Getting to the root is invariably hard if not impossible. Leaders need to be careful to defend the agenda and not themselves.

So why would anybody put themselves in this position. Simply put, because they give a damn! They hold the dream (vision) near and dear. They do not allow themselves to be swayed from the “cause”. And they adapt. They read the tealeaves and maneuver the plan to take account of emerging realities and opportunities.

I love this quote from Napoleon Bonaparte: “a leader is a dealer in hope”.

So the hope is what drives leaders (MLK called it his dream). We call it an EHR for all Canadians.

If we are to subscribe to Drucker’s definition, we must look at the results. Do we have radiologists reviewing scans online; yes. Do we have doctors using electronic medical records; yes. Do we have Canadians with access to their health records, yes. Do we have a tighter linkage between drugs prescribed and dispensed, yes. I could go on.

Are we perfect, no. Are we finished, definitely not. But we are squarely on a path towards that tipping point.

Last quote for this article, mostly attributed to Voltaire, albeit with some poetic license: “perfection is the enemy of progress”.

I would submit that we have made great strides towards our vision. And to those that would seek to cry down said progress, I say “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Ok, perhaps that one doesn’t work as well! Rephrasing the sentiment, I would say it is easy to sit on the sidelines and criticise. Get in the game! Offer solutions, put your neck and career out there the way others have done. For only in this way will we get progress.

Some leaders are lauded for their success; others have been vilified for trying. Either way they are all leaders. And they must be remembered as such; as risk takers; as passionate believers in a vision; as driven to make a difference despite the odds. For without them, we would still writing prescriptions with quilled pens.

I for one need to believe in unicorns…

share this article...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn