They say when you paddle across a lake it’s hard to tell how far you’ve come until you look back. With 2016 reaching its end, we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on our healthcare industry’s achievements to see how far we’ve progressed, while looking ahead to see what the new year may hold.

I sat down with Managing Director for Canada, Susan Anderson, to get her thoughts on the past and future of healthcare. Here is the first part of that conversation.

What major changes/trends in Canadian healthcare did you see this past year?

Analytics & Integration

Several major trends emerged over the past year (or past few years that were further developed in 2016). First, further emphasis and importance was placed on analytics capabilities to support efforts in obtaining meaningful outcomes that have direct relevance to patients and providers. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is one example of this shift, with their new strategy around expanding focus into new data sets like personal health information.

Along with analytics capabilities, there is increased recognition of the importance of clinical terminology and the role it plays in enriching data sets. For example, LOINC allows for enhanced diagnostic clinical laboratory test results, while SNOMED CT is linked to clinical documentation and discrete data. The augmentation of these data sets enables more effective insights and analytics capabilities.

We’ve also seen progress on new integration standards, including HL7/FHIR, in efforts to accelerate interoperability, shared data and information within our system. Our industry has come to recognize there is a struggle to integrate using HL7 v3, and there’s been slow adoption by American and Canadian health vendors.

Consumer Health

One breakout change this year has been the development of user-friendly patient and consumer solutions that complement clinician-based solutions. From wearable monitoring devices to home remote monitoring solutions, there’s been a rapid increase in these solutions. Consumer and patients are two sides of the same coin, with opportunity to begin the healthcare journey with focus on wellness and  preventative health, and then transition to sickness and chronic condition management. 

In the same vein, the Internet of Things continues to make its mark by expanding ubiquitous networks in both the hospital and community. Within the hospital, we see medical equipment sharing data via communication networks, including linking to clinical information systems. And within the community, we’re seeing smart-enabled homes become commonplace with new voice activated command stations which manage the home environment.

What surprised you in 2016?

As you may have read in our Executive Vice President Gary Folker’s article on innovation in healthcare in Healthcare Information Management & Communications Canada, the “UBERization” of the Canadian health system, public and private, has been a hot topic. While there is clearly a desire for disruption, I was surprised to see that it has not (yet) been embraced.

I wasn’t expecting to see health system decision makers continue to invest the majority of their Information Management Information Technology (IMIT) funds in upgrading hospital-based clinical systems; I expected them to be focusing on extending outward from hospital into community, including population health support.

It was also fascinating to see legacy health systems have their life extended by the use of applications that filled gaps in information and expanded the system’s capabilities. These applications reuse existing digital assets to avoid the expense of ripping and replacing during a time where healthcare budgets are constrained.

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