Future-proofing Canada’s healthcare organizations for patient-centric care

May 17, 2019 Dr. Chris Hobson

Long wait times, lack of care coordination, medication errors and duplications – these are just a sample of the challenges facing our healthcare system. Today, the healthcare industry is still in the early stages of truly delivering on patient-centered care, a promise and vision that involves including patients in decision-making, treating patients with dignity, and proper integration of care.

More and more Canadian healthcare organizations are embracing an approach of consumerism as a strategy to improve the health of patients and the patient experience. In addition to that step, healthcare executives need to turn their attention to meeting the demands and challenges of a new era of healthcare which is intolerant of long wait times, poor care coordination and medication errors. Now is the time to focus on future-proofing healthcare organizations and consider using technology to help boost clinical financial and operational performance, improve patient outcomes and manage risk.

For healthcare providers to embrace the shift to this brave new world of patient-centric care, multiple innovations will be necessary.

Shared Electronic Health Records
Health authorities must continue making strategic investments to capture and store data from across their patient population. Leveraging clinical data in this way can help providers discover insights from lab results and clinical conditions from the traditional medical record. Researchers have proven repeatedly that traditional medical care comprises no more than 20 per cent of a patient’s ultimate health outcomes in terms of length and quality of life. The other 80 per cent is due to factors such as the social determinants of health, behaviour, lifestyle choices and the individual’s inherited genetic health risks. This type of data, especially when aggregated into a population view can be used to identify gaps in care across an entire population. Once shared appropriately with providers, care gaps can guide providers in the proactive management of their patient population.

Interoperability and FHIR
Much of the clinical and other relevant types of data referenced above is stored in a range of electronic systems, and siloed in such a way as to be difficult for clinicians and health authorities to access and use. Nevertheless, in most Canadian jurisdictions it is already possible for a clinician to access a combined view of all the traditional clinical data, perform analytics, and act on those insights. Exciting progress in the area of interoperability is occurring at a rapid pace, helped by the advent of the FHIR standard. This work is expanding rapidly, through newly developed FHIR standards that enable the appropriate sharing of social determinants of health data in the Gravity project being led by Kaiser Permanente.

Precision Medicine
In order to deliver highly personalized care, providers and health organizations need access to complete information about their patients, as well as high-quality predictive models and analytic measures that precisely guide decision-making about the care of each individual.

Precision medicine is a rapidly emerging model of healthcare that combines all information unique to an individual. This model identifies effective prevention-and-treatment strategies based on genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that are all combined to deliver insights through the latest machine learning approaches. 

As Canada’s healthcare industry continues to evolve, organizations that implement and use these major strategic approaches will be best placed to provide each patient with the care that’s right for them.  Thoughtful use of these recommended strategic approaches will help organizations answer specific challenges such as prolonged waiting times, a lack of care coordination and medication errors, thereby positioning organizations for long-term future success.

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