Altering the Horizon: Health System Use

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We’ve invested in the technology.

We’ve invested in the systems.

And now, we are ready to move from system development to using the data.

Over the last 10 years, the focus has been on building systems in support of every Canadian having an electronic health record. Across the country, there has been solid progress in areas such as electronic medical records, lab information systems, digital imaging and drug information systems. Admittedly, the road has sometimes been bumpy, and we haven’t crossed the finish line yet. But we are getting glimpses of the next big thing: using data from these systems to support program improvements, planning and resource allocation, public health and research. This is health system use—HSU.

The value of HSU is equal to the value of good decision-making. And this is huge. Every successful business is built around sound decision-making. As Canadians, we expect the same from our health system.

It is because of the large impact that HSU can have on the health system that the Conference of Deputy Ministers of Health tasked us and Canada Health Infoway to jointly develop, promote and refine a vision for HSU for Canada. A  Canadian vision, “Better Information for Improved Health,” was approved by the deputy ministers and has three main components:

  • There is data that is collected, available and used.
  • There is the capacity to collect and use the data.
  • There is an infrastructure such as policies, governance and technology to support the collection and use of information.

We’ve developed a high-level framework for the vision and are in the process of more fully developing each component. Our ultimate goal is to develop an HSU Vision Paper for Canada to be tabled at the deputy ministers of health conference next March. As part of this process, we’ll be consulting with key stakeholder groups across the country. We want this paper to serve as a starting block for further discussions within provinces, territories and organizations on the HSU strategy.

As we work on this paper, we’ll be seeking out real life examples of how data has been used to support decision-making. We’ve already documented some of these, which you can see here—but we’re always on the lookout for more!

Making It Happen

We need to make this vision a reality. The HSU Canadian Vision is calling on everyone involved in the development of health information systems to consider HSU as a core requirement. For example, capturing data in a way that supports analysis, such as using coded and structured formats. Or developing and managing the governance mechanisms associated with newly available data. Or having the supporting processes in place to allow the analysis to take place. The vision will be a guide, but it’s those individuals responsible for building and using the systems that can truly make it happen. At the e-Health 2012 conference this past spring we organized and moderated a session on HSU. The audience response was excellent, supporting, once again, the value of HSU.

“We are taking the conversation to the next level, and people are ready,” says Francine Anne Roy, CIHI’s Director of Health Spending and Strategic Initiatives. “HSU is the next big thing—it is not a choice, but a reality.”