Driving innovation in healthcare

Earlier today, Paul Lepage [President, TELUS Health] spoke at the Toronto Board of Trade about “Hearing the patient: How people, innovation and technology are transforming healthcare.”

A number of times in the past, I have written about opportunities for improvement that we should be able to implement in Canada’s healthcare system, such as:

At the Board of Trade, Paul shared some of the things TELUS Health has learned from its work in digital health solutions:

  • Surveys show patients want digital health solutions, but there is a gap between patient expectations and the solutions available to them.
  • Patient appetites for more digital health solutions are validated by looking at usage patters on today’s solutions.
  • Mobility is key

While the past 5 years have seen physician adoption of electronic health records double from 40% to over 80%, he suggests that “if we want to really drive transformation in healthcare, we need to get the different parts of the ecosystem to talk to each other, collaborate, and evolve the way patients and all healthcare providers interact.” TELUS Health has been involved with the Canada Health Infoway to deliver a national electronic prescription solution, trying to tackle the challenges of prescription errors and costs for prescription renewals. And TELUS Health has introduced MedDialog, a secure messaging platform for healthcare providers, enabling them to communicate and conduct digital patient consultations, sharing notes and providing referrals.

How do we drive more innovation in healthcare? He described drivers for TELUS Health that really could apply in any market:

  1. Ensuring funding for companies:
    • Since 2001 TELUS Ventures has invested in over 50 companies and has close to 25 in its portfolio today
    • TELUS Health plans to invest over $750M over the next 5 years
  2. Market access
    • TELUS Health is creating an ecosystem for smaller companies, leverage its customer base via the TELUS Health Exchange
  3. Availability of talent
    • TELUS Health has about 2000 people working on health IT
    • TELUS Ventures Bench provides companies in the TELUS Ventures portfolio with access to TELUS leaders with varying skillsets to act as advisors
  4. Appropriate regulatory frameworks
    • Making sure that the healthcare systems encourage the right behaviours to drive innovation
  5. Tolerance for failure
    • Recognizing healthcare is complex and evolving, like the regulatory and political context in which it operates
    • Innovative firms extract the “tuition value from failure”, celebrate it, and move on

In the past year, with friends, colleagues and family members, I have had too many interactions with healthcare providers in clinics, hospitals and doctors offices in Canada, the US and Israel. In his talk, Paul Lepage referred to innovations in health IT being deployed by Clalit Health Services in Israel, a leading group that is now delivering more than 60% of their pediatric consultations on-line. I have seen first hand the excellence in service delivery at Clalit.

Some of the ways we do things make me shake my head and wonder if executives at our hospitals are taking enough time to observe first hand how patients are being treated from the time they enter the campus. As I have said about communications companies, if employees and executives aren’t being treated like the general public, change the way you handle internal accounts immediately. Hospitals, retailers, communications firms alike need to see how your customers are being handled.

Each negative interaction represents an opportunity for innovation in our healthcare system. Each innovation represents an opportunity for improved processes and systems. Each improved process represents an opportunity to deliver better patient outcomes with significantly lower costs.

As Paul said in his concluding remarks, to drive innovation goes beyond technology. It requires changes in people, policies and processes. Implementing those changes may be the biggest challenge in transforming delivery of healthcare in Canada. Indeed, finding the leadership, recruiting and retaining the people to effect those changes, may be the biggest challenge for Canada’s national innovation agenda.

1 thought on “Driving innovation in healthcare”

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top