In health IT, we often frame our goals as a checklist of technologies to be acquired rather than focusing on the impact our work has on patients. Impacts that can transform the system, like involving the patient in their care and care planning, reducing wait times, enabling faster and more accurate diagnoses and improving medication adherence.
At this critical juncture in healthcare, where we must contend with an ageing population and ongoing healthcare cuts, one must wonder if our efforts are enough to address today’s healthcare demands. Many would agree they’re not and that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the opportunities these new technologies will afford us.
Looking at the current and future needs of patients, it’s clear the impetus needs to be on disrupting the delivery of healthcare so that we focus less on “sick care” and more on prevention and personalized care. This can be achieved by including new data such as social determinants of health and genomic sequencing, both of which can help assess individual risk for specific diseases. To illustrate this point, we wouldn’t expect someone to drive in a car missing an odometer and fuel gauge. Yet we ask patients how they’re feeling without providing any outcome indicators. Genomics can provide those indicators, enabling targeted screening, diagnosis and therapies, and can help care providers break through many of the barriers we face today. It may well push us to think beyond the traditional approach to healthcare, helping perceive issues before they arise by refining our understanding of disease prediction, risk and progression.
Remember the lessons that Uber taught us about disruption? Now consider genomics and how making it a part of routine clinical practice can help reduce time and cost to diagnosis. Allocating the savings into other programs and interventions that aid care providers and their patients in coordinating and managing the social determinants of their health could revolutionize healthcare as we know it.
The role of technology is fundamental to making this all a reality in Canada. We already know that the data storage and management demands of precision medicine will well exceed those anticipated in current plans for healthcare jurisdictions. But having full access to patients’ genomic data is a big data challenge the healthcare system should want to have, as it can lead to preventative measures that stop disease before it starts.
In order to realize the full benefits of precision medicine, it is critical that we identify how the system will manage and process the substantial amount of data genomic sequencing will produce. Once that is established, we must enable Canadians to have their genomics tested in an affordable and accessible manner. In conjunction, we need to develop mechanisms that allow us to adopt, scale and contribute new clinical genomic insights from global best practices. Canada runs the risk of wasting opportunities and money, falling further behind other countries, if we do not adopt a cogent strategy and infrastructure to apply this vital data into improving clinical care.
The business of healthcare is dynamic and one that employs over ten per cent of our entire workforce, second only to the retail segment in Canada. We know as an industry that we can deliver value to the patient through our innovative technologies and capabilities. So we need to ask ourselves: “Are we, as an industry, truly embracing disruption in the Canadian healthcare system?”