In the first part of our blog series, I sat down with Managing Director for Canada Susan Anderson to get her reflections on healthcare in Canada in 2016, and to hear about some developments that took her by surprise. In this second part, we look to the future to see what Susan believes could unfold in the new year.

How do you see 2017 developing?

Health jurisdictions are continuing to run into challenges when trying to acquire funding in support of new digital technology investments. I believe in 2017 we will see an emphasis placed on shared procurement of digital technology to support multi-jurisdictional and/or national solutions. This includes Clinical Information System implementations that expand across clusters of healthcare organizations, and new applications that are designed to be jurisdiction-agnostic, to fit needs of all Canadians, not just some Canadians.

As a companion to the multi-jurisdictional solutions, cloud technology will come to centre stage next year. Privacy and security concerns will constrain cloud adoption in health services to private clouds for patient identified information. But there will still be possibility of the addition of public clouds supporting aggregated, open health data sets.

I believe we will see analytics tools expand beyond simple dashboards to expanded use of data visualization, machine learning algorithm development, natural language processing, and predictive analytics. Especially as we head further down the Precision Medicine path, we’ll also see access to data sets beyond traditional health data sources, including social media, genomic data and personal health data sources.

Lastly, 2017 will be the year that consumer and patient focused health applications will truly breakout in Canada. Provinces including Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Alberta will see jurisdiction-wide access to online digital health information, so patients can utilize their health information when making healthcare decisions, as well as strengthen ties with members of their care team. Virtual care, as introduced in British Columbia, will join telehealth in jurisdictional digital health tool-kit in establishing important links between Canadian patients and their care teams, especially in rural and remote settings.  Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) will also see increased adoption as it becomes a more routine application provided for complex patients who are being discharged from hospital acute care to home care.

What do you wish you had seen this past year?

Last year we did a lot of work that continued to move the dial forward on improving healthcare delivery in our country. In fact, public awareness of the significant work that is currently underway in the analytics realm of healthcare is significant. That being said, health analytics is still under-documented, under-utilized and not positioned well for broader use in other areas like clinical decision support.

We also missed an opportunity to direct industry focus towards the harmonization of Privacy Legislation, Regulations and Policies. Improved cohesion in this area will enable jurisdictions to more easily share data that is both health and non-health information. With this door opened, jurisdictions can better coordinate their care efforts and facilitate smoother experiences for patients. Certainly we must work to encourage a renewed focus on data privacy issues in the new year.

In line with syncing Privacy, Legislation, Regulations and Policies, I would liked to have seen Canada begin taking the first steps in implementing a common solution for National Canadian Digital Identity, so that as a nation we standardize the process of validating and authorizing patients and those in the healthcare industry. Another change that we need to see in the area of information security is the creation of a common solution for National Secure Messaging for all health service providers.  By standardizing these tools we can help ensure that security, safety and privacy is upheld, but that differing, conflicting standards don’t impede the adoption of improved technology and processes.

While we haven’t seen these changes yet, they’re on the sector’s radar and I hope to see 2017 become a year where we take steps in that direction.

Any final thoughts?

When beginning a new year, there’s often a desire for new technology and changes, and an inclination to forget about the work that’s currently ongoing and still needs attention. Case and point, EHR integration. EHR integration is hard work, tiring and often takes some time before the benefits are realized; however it’s an essential foundation to our healthcare system and needs continued attention. As we move forward into 2017, it’s essential we don’t forget about the building blocks.

This also applies to precision medicine. While it is still emerging and requires further development, precision medicine stands to transform the way we approach care by pulling from new data sources. Should we persevere, this will help to improve outcomes and support patient-centric care in the long-term.

Was there a question you would have liked to see here? Or a prediction missed? Tweet us your questions and thoughts at @OrionHealth_CA.