With the current discussions and concerns relative to our evolving healthcare delivery, one starts to think that we are approaching a crossroads of sorts; one that will require strong leadership and perhaps a refocus of our strategies to move forward.

On one side, many of the concerns relate to our ability to meet the increasing demands during a pronounced period of fiscal restraint.

To add to the financial pressures, provinces are now facing a decrease from six percent growth per annum to three percent growth in transfer payments from the federal government. Many provincial premiers are challenging this decrease.

On the other hand, consumer health, community health, home health, analytics, patient-centered care, precision health and so on continue to dominate many discussions. But in the midst of the discussions, we are experiencing indecision on next steps and commitments to move forward with the required actions.

“Leveraging current assets” is a phrase often raised as a means to decrease the costs of acquiring additional technology capabilities. Certainly, the investments that have been made need careful consideration in these decisions. Many of the provincial EHRs are robust infrastructures that can be further utilized as a framework for providing additional services.

The other asset to leverage is our knowledge and our professionals. Many of our organizations today have a wealth of knowledge and could be instrumental in helping solve the challenges that we face. The problem seems to revolve around procurement and risk as many of the decisions today are seemingly delayed or taking a much longer decision path.

The concern then is that we are creating a backlog of necessary advances to our delivery system, and during this time we may well be losing resources and knowledge to other countries.

Why is this? Innovation and innovative thinking are important elements, and many Ministries are anxious to include our industry innovations in their discussions; but when “risk” enters the picture, we tend to shy away. Surely we need to better balance the utilization of our knowledgeable resources and also determine how risk can be shared appropriately to allow for the introduction of “innovative technologies”.

The expectation is that wastage in the system will be scrutinized very carefully and drastic measures must be undertaken to reduce wastage where ever possible.

This concern should not be dismissed, as it’s an incentive for us to manage our costs and also allow us to invest in the areas of “innovative” technologies. For community care, home care, and consumer care, there are also questions on the role of the hospital or acute care facility in the overall delivery of health services, particularly as it relates to funding. This seems to be an area that will require attention through open and honest discussions in order to develop an approach that works for our citizens. These discussions may well form an approach from a national level as well.

Another factor for consideration as we approach this crossroad is that of privacy and security – risks that will become even more prevalent as we move to a more consumer-centric healthcare model. Certainly, this is an area of ongoing concern and we will need to continually evaluate and provide the necessary framework to protect our citizen’s information to the best of our ability. It may be helpful to consider that discussions in this area should also be escalated to a national forum where possible.

So the challenges are very real and varied, and the solution will need to begin with a strong collaboration amongst all parties. The provincial ministries, their agents and the various procurement groups will be very concerned with matters relating to budgets and spending.

The IT vendor community will need to understand the needs, what will be asked, and, in many instances, the openness to partner in order to provide the best solutions for the best value. The vendor community should also be engaged as a trusted advisor to help our clients during this period of change and restraint. Procurements should be conducted expediently to reduce actual costs of procurement and leverage, where possible, current assets to enhance value.

We find ourselves in very changing and challenging times. As we look for technological solutions to provide the advancing care initiatives, we need to be even more open to change in our thinking. Our future is dependent on being innovative in our thinking as well as innovative with our technologies. Risk sharing in a positive way which may also assist with the evolution of our healthcare system.

This article originally appeared in an article on the Healthcare Information Management & Communications Canada website.

About the author: Gary Folker is Executive VP, Orion Health, North America.