Life After 40: Future Focused and Phenomenal!

Is there life after 40? The answer, for COACH, is a resounding, “Yes!”

As we embark on a new decade, following the 40th anniversary celebrations that culminated in COACH’s official “birthday” Aug. 18, the future looks promising. The last few months have shown that for COACH, the road ahead, while sometimes challenging, is paved with potential. There is no doubt the association will be different in some ways as we move forward, but, in all we do, our ultimate goal will remain constant – achieving better health for Canadians.

In order to do this, COACH and health informatics (HI) professionals as a whole, must deal with change – major, foundational shifts in the health system and care delivery. Most readers have already seen and experienced this kind of change, but more, much more, is coming. The digital health revolution is well on its way and the next big thing will be the “democratization” of healthcare, as mobile technology and new care delivery models provide individuals with unprecedented control over their healthcare.

Even a few years ago, it was hard to visualize some of the remarkable advances that are now reality. These are innovations like pacemaker monitoring at a community YMCA-YWCA, a completely digital hospital equipped with robots to handle blood samples and smart contact lenses that monitor blood sugar levels.

Behind these and other amazing developments are phenomenal changes such as:

  • the move from totally institution-based care to more community-based and home care,
  • increased patient participation and interest in their own care,
  • less face-to-face care delivery,
  • more broadly available, consumer friendly technology, including mobile devices,
  • the “Internet of Things”, where individuals have unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without humanto- human or human-to-computer interaction.

So, in light of these and other related changes, COACH has a huge role to play in helping HI professionals succeed in the new reality and prepare for the onslaught of change still to come. As Abraham Lincoln said:

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

In the last Journal, I talked about how COACH needs to “go where the puck will be.” At this point, the puck is in sight – we can see where we need to be. Now, let’s look at some of the ways we’re starting to make real progress on getting there.

Education & Resources
From new professionals to industry veterans, continuous learning is essential. So, providing learning opportunities about new technology, practices and research and developing best practice resources is a top priority for COACH. The new CHIEF Discussion Papers exemplify our strength in bringing professionals together from both ends of the spectrum – HI newcomers and accomplished senior leaders – to examine important current, challenging topics. This initiative has resulted in two excellent papers, full of research and insightful recommendations. Plus, the development process gave newer professionals a rare opportunity to learn from the “brain trust” of Canadian HI, while the participating senior executives helped grow leadership talent. (Be sure to download the papers, The Clinical Value/ Business Return Equation: Understanding Hospital Information System ROI and Public-Private Partnerships: Putting P3 Funding Models to Work for Health IT from

Equally important, as part of this project, were our webinars to share these papers with members and foster further discussion. The authors are also spreading a wide net throughout the industry by presenting the papers at HealthAchieve (during the e-HealthAchieve Forum) and the Canada Health Infoway Fall Partnership Conference. This kind of dissemination is essential to involving all stakeholders and tap into fresh, innovative ideas.

The recent expansion of our webinar series, Webinar Wednesdays, is another powerful example of how COACH is helping professionals stay on top of rapid-fire change. The 2015 Canadian Telehealth Report webinar attracted record-breaking participation. Attendees delved into report data showing that telehealth has grown substantially and is playing a critical role in health system plans, policies and care processes as an essential method of care delivery. (See Telehealth Report article elsewhere in this issue.) The one-hour format and online webinar presentation library help meet the busy professional’s need for education in “bite-size” pieces.

Future Forward
Taking a future-oriented approach and strong two-way communication were other important aspects of publishing the telehealth report. We invited comment: “What are your challenges?” “What would you change?” “How does this affect your professional role?” We asked questions like these on the surveys to collect the report data from jurisdictions across Canada and webinar attendee feedback and to drive the follow-up tweet chat with a wider audience on Twitter. In this way, we captured what “is”, as well as the ramifications of the current state on professionals and where they see it going. This will help shape the next telehealth report as well as related programs and services. In any COACH initiative, this approach is absolutely essential to effectively prepare for the future and foster an engaged, committed membership community.

This idea of anticipating future needs is also integral to many of our other activities, including the eSafety, clinician support and HI career development initiatives. This kind of reinvigorated, forward-facing approach is also being used to ensure the e-Health 2016 Conference focuses on cutting-edge issues and more two-way discussions and maximizes attendee engagement in Vancouver next June.

Members: The Key
In our quest to help professionals cope with ongoing changes and ensure COACH remains a vibrant, relevant organization, the leadership relies on COACH members for direction. We are, for example, closely examining the results of this year’s Membership Survey to plan for the future. (See membership article elsewhere in this issue.) As I have said many times before, the Board of Directors strongly encourages members – the heartbeat of our association — to provide feedback. To readers who are members, please post your ideas on our social media, talk to a Board member or get in touch with the staff team. We NEED to hear from members on questions like:

  • What are your greatest challenges as a HI professional at this time?
  • What one new thing would you like to see COACH doing differently?

I would also like to briefly touch on another change, designed to ensure COACH continues to be a nimble and responsive. This is the move to a virtual office for our staff and management team. In this day and age, where technology enables us to make the most efficient use of our time and resources, COACH is dedicated to fulfilling a mission with the health of Canadians at our core:

Advance the adoption, practice and professionalism of health informatics to achieve better health for Canadians

The future is almost here for COACH and it looks exciting! I look forward to continuing to work with members, as we take our association to the next level. Please contact me through or twitter @COACH_HI with your ideas for a future-forward COACH.

Mike Barron

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