Education Day 2009
By: Catherine Cotton
The HPME Society of Graduates held its annual Education Day on May 27, 2009. This year, we came together to explore how to leverage health care innovations that can support system-wide reform and transformation.
Granted, that’s a huge topic. But our keynote speaker and three panellists stimulated our thinking and gave us practical insights into how to accomplish this work.
Keynote address: “Think Big, Act Small, Deliver Quickly, and Leverage Like (Heck): Opportunities for Health System Transformation in the Age of the Internet”
The morning began with a keynote address by HPME’s own Dr Alejandro (Alex) Jadad, the chief innovator and founder of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation. Alex’s work focuses on (1) virtual tools to support encounters between the public and the health system; (2) interactive tools to promote knowledge translation; and (3) online resources to support social networking and international collaboration, as well as to enable the public to shape the health system.
Alex spoke passionately about the next generation of young adults, many of whom are making great strides in collaboratively using new and emerging technologies to address complex issues such as pandemics, aging and chronic disease management, global conflict, and environmental destruction. He noted that we have much to learn from this “glocal” generation – people who live both globally and locally through the use of technological innovations (e.g., iPhones, Facebook, wikis, and the Internet). We must make a greater effort to share our collective knowledge within health care using these innovative technologies, Alex counselled. That way, we will be better equipped to tackle complex diseases, to develop new care models, and to think beyond the walls of traditional medicine.
Much of Alex’s talk was devoted to the transformative potential of “living labs” – testing environments where feasible options for change using innovative technology are being developed. In this regard, Alex discussed the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, a living lab he designed for studying and optimizing the use of information and communication technologies before their introduction into the health system. The Centre’s primary care research unit is focused on redefining what a hospital can be, and organizations such as Bridgepoint and Sunnybrook are actively investing resources in this research.
While he is a technology enthusiast, Alex also noted that there are barriers to using technology more widely, particularly in light of recent privacy legislation. Fear of the unknown, fear of system abuse, fear of sharing knowledge and resources more openly – all these factors will delay the full leveraging of innovative technologies.
In order to overcome these and other limitations, Alex believes we must rethink our roles and our opportunities. This will entail doing things “with” others as opposed to “for” others. On a personal level, Alex noted he has successfully used technology (e.g., Facebook) to reach out to his patients and their families for 25 years. The pressing need to develop a fully electronic health record that patients can share with different providers across the health care continuum must act as a catalyst for hospitals, other health care facilities, and community agencies to cease quiet competition and begin open collaboration in the use of innovative technology to redefine health care delivery. In order to succeed, Alex stressed, our leaders must have a vision, they must communicate it broadly, and they must take risks to ensure the right choices are also the easiest choices.
HPME’s Dr Paul Williams moderated the panel discussion that followed Alex’s address. The panellists were Rheta Fanizza, senior vice president of St. Elizabeth Health Care; Marian Walsh, president and chief executive officer of Bridgepoint Health; and Dr Rob McLaughlin, associate vice president research of Agrifood Strategies at the University of Guelph.
These three experts provided insights into how their organizations are leveraging innovations to promote health system change. From the creation of a knowledge factory that provides learning at the side of the health care provider in all working environments, to the use of teachable moments to meld food and health at the Royal Winter Fair, to the adoption of local-level change, to the promotion of new models of care delivery, the message was clear: we must all become the “little engine that could.”
Rheta, Marian, and Rob stressed that we, as health care leaders, are the engines that must maintain the momentum of change. As part of our efforts, we must partner with health care providers to advance the prevention and management of chronic diseases, and to inspire life overall. The health care system’s transformation will depend on thinking big, supporting small acts of change, and leveraging innovations and opportunities.