Health system use Realizing the benefits of e-health investments and infrastructure

Predicting illness before a patient shows symptoms and pattern recognition that can be used in postoperative care are just 2 of the game changers in analytics and digital solutions we heard about at the recent Health Analytics for Informed Decision-Making: Health System Use Summit.

The summit brought together 125 senior leaders from across the country for 2 days in Toronto last February. They met to share ideas and discuss how best to shape the health analytics agenda to drive decision-making and change in health systems across Canada. Participants included executives from government and health systems, and from the clinical, information technology and research communities.

A cast of stellar speakers

This exciting event, co-hosted by CIHI and Canada Health Infoway, showcased the value of health analytics — both at the front line and for informing system decisions — and also initiated a conversation on how to move the health system use agenda forward.

The summit featured thought-provoking speakers working in health care in Canada and the United States, as well as speakers from outside the health care system. Discussions focused on

  • Game changers and emerging opportunities for health system use of data
  • Myths and hype that surround the topic of health analytics
  • Evidence of analytics in use and the benefits that are being realized
  • The power and possibilities raised through innovative partnerships
  • Paths forward and opportunities for each of the different constituencies to play a role

Dr. John Hirdes, Professor, University of Waterloo; Dr. Paul Hébert, Physician in Chief,
Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal

Process efficiencies and cost reductions in digital solutions

“The investments and hard work that went into creating and adopting digital solutions across the country are starting to pay off,” said Brent Diverty, vice president of Programs at CIHI. Speakers at the summit shared many examples of the value that is created through health analytics, including process efficiencies and cost reductions, safer care and improved quality of life for patients.

While we have started to realize the benefits of e-health investments and infrastructure, said Diverty, the technology environment and capabilities continue to change rapidly. Participants were given insights into some of the game changers that exist today:

  • Machine learning to predict illness before a patient shows symptoms
  • Pattern recognition and image processing for diagnostic purposes and postoperative care
  • Text analytics and natural language processing that can reveal patients’ sentiments in their speech, in order to evaluate their risk of self-harm or their likelihood of not complying with prescribed treatments
  • Living systems that “listen” for changes in data patterns and trigger recommendations based on care guidelines

Other highlights included presentations on analytics to support athletes, human performance and preventive medicine. Many of these showcased how wearable devices and analytics could be used to personalize medicine, anticipate needs and predict patients’ outcomes.

Dr. Travis McDonough, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Kinduct Technologies

Unique partnerships and creative approaches

Among those who presented were industry participants from outside health care, including Kinduct Technologies, Canadian Tire and Own the Podium. These organizations are making bold changes and using analytics in innovative ways. Their message to their health care colleagues attending the summit: Practice relentless focus, be nimble and agile, and change course if necessary.

These groups are using innovative partnerships and creative technologies to generate value, help guide investment decisions and move beyond the status quo.

The summit highlighted a number of ongoing partnerships between clinicians and researchers, between private and public sectors, between different jurisdictions, and between patients and health care organizations. 

Anne Merklinger, Chief Executive Officer, Own the Podium

Technology as part of the solution

Panellists also showcased how industry and health care leaders are reconceptualizing the role of technology and analytics in driving health system change. “We have gone from thinking that technology was the solution to thinking about how technology and analytics can be part of the solution to specific health care problems,” said David O’Toole, CIHI’s president and CEO.

Some of the key actions coming out of the summit include the need to

  • Re-centre on the patient
  • Build capacity
  • Engage in more active partnering with physicians
  • Provide better access to quality measures
  • Explore strategic partnerships
  • Include patients and clinicians at the beginning of any analytical design process

Finding a path forward

Participants are committed to finding a path forward and agreed that there are many ways to participate, depending on the role they hold. An executive summary is being produced that will synthesize key messages and provide highlights from the event. It will be available on our website at the end of May.

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