Will disruptive technologies lead to healthcare innovation?

This year, I have the honour of being appointed as the Board Chair for ITAC Health and it is a true privilege to serve the healthcare industry in this capacity. As an industry, I believe we are facing challenging yet exciting times as we anticipate the growing health needs of Canadians for years to come.

It comes as no surprise to anyone the fact that our population is aging, and we are working hard to examine ways and means in which to provide healthcare with dignity to our senior citizens. Coupled with our efforts for changes in care for those that suffer from a variety of chronic diseases, it all sounds rather familiar. So what can we expect will be different?

Numerous terms that are commonly used today, some new and some not so new, continue to dominate many of the conversations. Some of these terms include risk sharing, software as a service, cloud, innovation, Population Health Management, analytics, interoperability, care coordination, care continuum, information silos, patient centric, privacy concerns, home monitoring, genomics, wearables, stratifying patients, care pathways and so on.

I intend to delve deeper into some of these topics in future articles but for now, let’s look at the “innovation” factor that will help in meeting today’s healthcare needs and position us for the needs of the near future.

Canada as a country is very innovative by our very nature. And certainly, if you examine healthcare closely, you will find a tremendous amount of innovation that has taken place over the past few years. However; Canada has been slow at implementing or adopting these innovations. This is in part due to companies, for the most part, finding it necessary to look outside of Canada for a market to sustain their business. We have also seen companies from outside of Canada and global companies that have had varying degrees of difficulty with selling their innovative products or services in Canada. So ultimately we must ask ourselves if the lack of innovative adoption is due to the availability of innovation, or with our ability as a country to take advantage of it? This of course could create a major concern if in fact our “system” is holding us back.

Take a close look at the recent Uber controversy in Toronto. Many of you will have differing opinions on the matter, but it’s clear that Uber is successfully disrupting the way in which Canadians view and utilize transportation. Uber has superbly demonstrated that once we reach a “disruptive” state, then it is very difficult to stop or to control the change. The question remains, are we headed in this direction with healthcare?

There are many that believe that the individual will become the “CEO” of their own healthcare and that this movement may already have started. If this is in fact the case, then I would suggest that we may well be headed for that state of “disruption”.

Many experts state that the automobile and healthcare industries are prime targets for disruption. This has much to do with the size of the market in these cases and also the fact that both industries seem to resist change.

I think we need to consider resistance to change as the key inhibitor to progress. It is our role to determine these resistances and then plan how we can significantly speed up the process for adoption of innovative technology. This will involve many stakeholders including caregivers, ministries and, of course, the patient and future patients. Procurement vehicles will certainly need to adapt to new procurement methods in order to obtain new innovative technologies.

Disruptive technologies, or if you prefer innovative technologies, are here to stay and will increase significantly in the near future. We can choose to use these technologies as a means to adopt change and improve the patient experience for the benefit of all Canadians, or we can wait and allow the Canadian consumer to make the choice. In either case, the decisions will get made; it simply becomes a matter of timing.

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