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Health ministries need to adopt a model uses data to improve the health of their citizens

Michael Billanti is director of population health for Cerner Canada | Cerner

Digital technology has allowed businesses to build integrated solutions and use data to improve processes, create new products, and personalize customer experiences.

But Canada’s healthcare system has yet to join this digital transformation in a meaningful way. I say this with gratitude and optimism because, unlike other industries, health care asks more of all of us each day. More systems to use, more complicated processes to follow. Physicians, nurses, patients, and vendors are all watching the bar get higher and higher. And as it rises, the expectations for a dynamic, nimble, and cutting-edge health care system grow. The average person thinks health is far more connected and agile than it is.

So where are we? In many cases, clinical systems are either not used or not contributing data. What limited patient data exists is stuck in disparate silos of data. For example, data regarding a patient’s health record and social determinants, all reside with different clinicians, service providers, and provincial ministries. There are viable off the shelf digital solutions, platforms, and strategies, that should be employed by our healthcare systems to connect our all our data in the right way. We have seen the care coordination and patient benefits of implementing data exchanges for health records at scale. It’s not new, the pandemic has highlighted its need, and researchers are fighting for better access to this type of data. Connected data is leading innovation in all other industries, yet we in Canada can’t seem to pull it together and connect the data we need to analyze and in turn, use the data to make health system improvements.

So how do we set up for success? Unfortunately, these strategies fall between regional and provincial governments.That makes the conversations complex and disruptive. Health ministries need to adopt a model that aims to use data to guide and improve the health of their citizens.

Although clinical systems are very important, the tools of the future will rely on the data population health systems provide to create a comprehensive picture of each patient, and give real-time information to front line healthcare providers, administrators, and the government to shift to “preventative care” and solve healthcare challenges. The technology exists. Where it is enabled, we are seeing better coordination of care, greater collaboration within health teams, greater efficiencies in the health care system, and most of all transparency on how health care systems can become sustainable.

Here is the gratitude, and optimism part of the story. It is well established that we provide great care in Canada - it is world class. Our issues are really based in administrative, technical and system design.When we discuss these shortcomings, we cannot forget there are real people doing heroic things to deliver care. All of this has been highlighted during the pandemic again and again.

No matter what side of the data strategy conversation you are on, it directly impacts you. As a consumer, you expect tools to navigate and make the right choices as a user of the health care system. As a healthcare provider, you must use the data you have to give the best possible outcomes to your patients, and that access is often limited

Our health care systems are not incented to be agile, and innovation in health care is being incented by delivering better transactions not by building intelligence. I believe these are solvable issues if we follow one key mission; Get the data where it needs to go. The momentum in health care innovation needs to swell around a data architecture that allows us to derive intelligence at all levels— the patient, the provider, city, region, health system, and ministry level—all at the same time, so we can learn from it and act quickly and proactively. We don’t have to all be on one system, we just have to be using the same data strategy.