By the time this article is printed, I will have been President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway for 100 days, a milestone of sorts and an excellent time to reflect. Over the past several weeks, I’ve been asked why I took this job, my first impressions and what I’ve learned so far.
The answer to the first question is easy: I was interested in this job because I have great respect for the accomplishments that Infoway has achieved over the last decade and I believe that this organization has, and will continue to play an important role in the digital health landscape across Canada. In my previous role I had a first-hand view of the power of a national investment strategy and a concerted effort in the diagnostic imaging space. My former company was a fortunate beneficiary of this effort, as were the companies of my industry colleagues. Infoway is good for industry; and its investments, along with the knowledge jobs that these investments create, are good for the economy. Of course, most important is the difference that Infoway’s investments and strategic direction have made to the lives of the millions of Canadians who are benefitting today from the improved access, quality and efficiency of care that technology enables.
In terms of first impressions? I have spent much of my first 100 days meeting with stakeholders from across the country and listening to what they have to say. My impression is that there is a collective sense of pride around how far we have come in our digital health journey. For example, at a September meeting in Banff, the provincial and territorial Ministers of Health were united in their support, citing “electronic health records are one of the most transformational innovations in health care in a generation” and calling for the federal government to renew funding for Canada Health Infoway. I have heard similar sentiments from the clinical community, patient advocacy groups and trade associations. We, the collective “we”, have been working hard and we have made tremendous progress. We are proud of this, and rightly so.
However, lest I give you the impression that this has been a giant “love-in” so far, let me assure you that this is not the case. While there is recognition of the work completed to date and pride in what we’ve accomplished, there is frustration about the pace of progress and worry that we are losing momentum. Today, more so than ever, there are competing priorities for increasingly scarce health care dollars. In addition, expectations of Canadians, who have embraced technology in every other aspect of their lives, are high. They want to be able to book their appointments and renew their prescriptions online; they want to e-visit their clinicians and they want to see their health information. We also know that introducing technology into different care settings and hoping for change is not going to work. Information technology is an important enabler for transforming health care, but it alone will not be enough to make change happen. To optimize value, a number of enablers, or conditions, must be in place to support them. For example, governance and leadership, practice and process change, privacy and security, policy and legislation; we must make progress in all of these areas or we will not be successful.
Lessons learned? One of the first that comes to mind is the need to work collectively to advance the digital health agenda. Health care in Canada is a big machine and the number of people and organizations that have a stake in the well-being of our system, is extensive. With no exceptions, everyone I have met believes that technology is a key enabler to improving health and health care in Canada.
That is why I am thrilled to announce November 10-14 as Digital Health Week. During this week the national associations/organizations listed below will engage in a number of activities to showcase our digital health successes to date.
Canada Health Infoway
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Medical Association
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Canadian Mental Health Association
The Lung Association
Canadian Nurses Association
Medic Alert Foundation
Ontario Telemedicine Network
Canadian Patient Safety Institute
Canadian Pharmacists Association
Patients for Patient Safety Canada
Digital Health Week is part of a public education campaign designed to increase awareness of and support for digital health among Canadians. The campaign, appropriately named Better Health Together (www.betterhealthtogether.ca), reminds us about why we are doing this and how far we’ve come. It is also an important reminder that we are “better together”, a key take-away for me, based on my first 100 days.
I look forward to seeing some of you at this year’s Health Achieve Conference!