The province has launched Ontario Health Teams (OHTs) a new way of organizing and delivering care that is more connected to patients in their local communities. Provincial Health Minister, Christine Elliott announced the first round of OHTs at the end of 2019. If you are part of one, the challenge begins now – to establish a new way of working together, centred around patients and healthcare providers.

OHTs come at a time of increasing strain on our health system. Amid our aging demographic, rise in chronic disease and overcrowding of hospitals and emergency departments, our current healthcare delivery model is threatened. Key priorities include ending hallway medicine and introducing value-based care to Ontario. Digital health will provide an important set of tools to enable many of the objectives that the health teams need to address.

This past Fall, Orion Health launched Lessons from Around the World thought leader series with Faron Thompson, the Chief Operating Officer of Scottsdale, Arizona based Innovation Care Partners (ICP), one of the most successful Accountable Care Organizations in the U.S. Faron spoke with a group of Canadian healthcare technology executives about how ICP was able to improve the health of their patients while greatly reducing overall costs. The presentation was well received and set the tone for the next international speaker in this series, set to be announced soon.

Additionally, an Angus Reid survey of 150 digital health professionals was recently commissioned by Orion Health and led to an insightful report The Health of Interoperability in Canada that uncovers the progress and challenges in achieving an integrated health system. The respondents (two-thirds from Ontario) answered that two major benefits already achieved through healthcare interoperability are more effective care (60%) and improved patient safety (52%).

By using proven workflows to support patients across the continuum of care, we can help integrated care providers leverage existing technology to activate stranded and centralized health data, deliver information to patients and their families and bend the cost curve of care delivery. Ontario cannot afford to rip and replace its current technology system.

Implementing best practice and increasing quality and safety are other key objectives of the OHTs. These goals are not unique to Ontario, or Canada for that matter. Quality measurement and improvement initiatives exist across North America, Europe and Australia; OHTs can learn from the work being done with partners at home and abroad. We have measured clinical quality through hundreds of common quality indicators – designed to reduce patient harm, increase patient and family engagement, facilitate better communication and care coordination, implement prevention-and-treatment best practices for cardiovascular disease, and finally, control costs.

OHTs and digital health will be a focus for Ontario in the months and years to come. Integrated care, interoperability and enabling health data are the keys to unlocking the potential of a streamlined, coordinated health system. Digital health technology is changing the quality of patient care.

Orion is helping lead the transformation toward the future needs of care delivery. Solutions for interoperability, smarter hospitals, population health management, and precision medicine will drive efficiency and improve healthcare outcomes.