Healthcare in a Digital World – ITAC / CMA Think Tank

Earlier this year I was invited to participate in a “think tank” session hosted by the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) that explored the role of Information and Communications Technology in the Canadian health system.   Although I have wanted to blog about this event ever since it ended, I have held off until an official communique on the key findings from the event was officially published.

Earlier this week ITAC issued a summary of key findings  from the think tank along with a press release supporting the “digization of our healthcare system”.   The think tank, held April 13 and 14 at the Kingbridge Centre north of Toronto, explored “Enabling Transformation of the Healthcare System Through Strategic ICT Deployment Over the Next Five Years” with a focus on three core questions:

  1. Where is Healthcare and eHealth today?
  2. Where do we want Health and eHealth to be in five years?
  3. How are we going to get Healthcare and eHealth there?

An interesting theme that emerged from discussion regarding the future state of the Canadian health system was greater involvement of patients in their health and wellness.  Several thoughts reflecting this theme mentioned in the final report include:

  • More patient-centric with focus on patient needs and the patient experience
  • More self-serve so patients can more proactively participate, such as booking appointments
  • More collaborative, allowing for more digital communications between clients and healthcare resources and between practitioners

Another common theme emerging from think tank discussions was the desire to have our eHealth investments “more nationally standard-based so we can more cost effectively realize benefits from future ICT investments” and a recommendation that “We need to place greater emphasis on the use of common standards, making the market more cost-effective for vendors and creating a culture of innovation”. This theme was highlighted in ITAC's accompanying media release which concludes:

“One thing that is clear is that while provinces and territories are responsible for healthcare delivery, technology cuts across geographic boundaries. So we must think globally as we act locally. As we get closer to the point of care we need to embrace the use of national and international standards, which are the best guarantee of cost-effective and lasting technological solutions.  For example, the market for Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems in doctors’ offices in Canada is a patchwork of differentiated standards and products, which poses a significant barrier to cost-effectiveness, quality and adoption.  This requires a concerted effort by Canadian authorities in all jurisdictions to move to the adoption of international and national standards.”

The final report concludes that “digitization of our healthcare system is both pressing and essential to tackle the major challenges of cost increases outstripping growth government revenues or in GDP at an accelerating rate as our population ages”.

I encourage people to read the think tank final report. I'd be very interested to get your reaction and feedback.  The document is three pages in length and takes no more than 10 to 15 minutes to read.

Michael Martineau

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