Newly appointed eHealth Ontario CEO Greg Reed wants not only to stabilize the organization from within, but also to improve its reputation among the general public, medical community and IT partners.
The former Dundee Bank of Canada chief and long-time McKinsey & Co. consultant was officially appointed as president and CEO at eHealth Ontario on Tuesday. While he is now tasked with the long-term role of creating electronic health records for all Ontario residents by 2015, Reed said a lot of other work has to be done within the next five years to make that possible.
With the organization being run by a series of temporary CEOs since former chief executive Sarah Kramer left embroiled in a spending scandal last summer, Reed said a top goal is to create an ethical and transparent culture at eHealth Ontario. This change, he said, will also extend to the way the organization operates externally.
“We need to start meeting and establishing good links with the various stakeholders outside of this organization,” Reed said. “There are many players in the medical community of Ontario that have made investments in IT infrastructure, in medical records and in interoperability. There’s lots of innovation and good ideas out there.”
“The notion right now is that we need to have comprehensive EHR for all 12 or 13 million people in the province. That’s necessary, but that’s not remotely sufficient,” he added.
For Reed, EHR means nothing without systems and applications designed to ensure the timeliness, security and privacy of the data.
The role of eHealth Ontario, he said, is to take the lead on certain systems and accelerate the development of other systems by outside IT consultants and integrators. “For example, chronic disease management is an example of something that cuts across a whole range of providers, so we built a diabetes registry.”
Ultimately, he said, the ability for eHealth Ontario to look at things from a patient’s perspective and deliver value is crucial. “The sooner we can have a crisper definition of what’s in this for the patient … the sooner the public who’s paying for all of this will see the value of it,” Reed said.
Michael Martineau, the president of Ottawa-based e-health consultancy Avenant Inc., said that while he is encouraged to see the new eHealth Ontario CEO trying to improve the organization’s reputation through the press, he suggests Reed should now focus on actually getting feedback from the public.
“In the Internet age, getting the public on side is not a one-way street,” he said. “The media is a wonderful vehicle, but unless stakeholders feel like they have meaningful input, there’s going to continue to be problems.”
The e-health consultant, who also operates an e-health focused blog, said the downfall of the last administration was its inability to accept new ideas from stakeholders.
In the U.S., Martineau said, there’s a lot more debate surrounding actual e-health initiatives. “Not everyone agrees with each other, but the criticism is constructive and helps move the agenda forward,” he added.
In response to this idea, Reed said that while there is a role for public engagement, the goal of eHealth Ontario right now is to rebuild its credibility. “We’re not going to rebuild out credibility by talking, we’re going to rebuild it by demonstrating results and by delivering assistance and functionality.”
Reed said the organization will first put the emphasis on its partners across the province to deliver the capabilities needed and then work to engage the public.
In addition to consulting with the public, Martineau said appointing a physician to a Chief Medical Officer post could help eHealth Ontario to engage the medical community. It would also boost the credibility of the organization to have a medical doctor provide insight to the rest of the medical community into how health records will integrate into their daily work.
Reed said creating CMO position is an “interesting idea,” but one that would probably not be feasible in practice. He said this role is being filed by many different types of doctors and specialists who have been working closely with eHealth Ontario on a variety of projects.
“The idea of having a doctor on staff is a good one, but it’s unlikely that any one doctor we picked will be able to help us in all the areas where work needs to be done,” Reed said. “We need to work with lots of doctors in their areas of expertise as opposed to having a CMO here.”
He added that the organization’s diabetes project was a result of working with about 75 specialists to help determine the type of information required through the cycle of patient care.