In an era when people can monitor so much, from steps taken and calories consumed to the exact location of their online purchase, we should be able to expect more of our health care system.

The simplicity and integration we experience with everyday gadgets are missing in the patient journey, the hospital setting, and everywhere in between. 

The result? Health care practitioners must take time away from delivering care to fill in the gaps — costing time and money — and patients aren’t equipped with the information they need (and want) to make informed decisions about their own health. It’s not a situation we should, or must, accept in 2019.

A striking reality

In January, the Premier’s Council on Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine issued its first interim report: A System Under Strain. The interim report provides a solid overview of the challenges and opportunities to improve health care in Ontario: patients and families are having a difficult time navigating the system; there are capacity issues, especially for those with complex needs; care coordination needs to be improved; and digital tools are underutilized. 

Since the report came out, Ontarians have been given plenty of ideas of how transformation could go wrong, playing off our worst fears, but no one seems to be focusing on how transformation could address our biggest hopes and expectations for a modernized health care system.

The Ontario government needs to consider evolving our health care system [...] to one that proactively focuses on keeping people healthy and at home.

What if the system was integrated, and we didn’t have to answer the same questions multiple times, or do blood work, imaging, and other tests repeatedly? What if we had access to innovations that allowed for remote consultations, remote monitoring, or even delivering remote care? And what if we had access to medical technologies that improved our health, kept us out of the hospital, and reduced our reliance on beds in hallways?

A proactive approach

The Ontario government needs to consider evolving our health care system from one that is primarily reactionary, to one that proactively focuses on keeping people healthy and at home. 

To do this, we need to plan for the system we want in the future and take the lead on adopting new technologies — many of which have been developed by Canadian entrepreneurs — and new processes. It’s an exciting time for health innovation in Ontario and we should be the first to benefit from the work coming out of one of the world’s leading health technology hubs. 

It’s time for our public health care system to fully leverage these 21st-century innovations.

The Ontario government has an opportunity to re-define how we approach health innovation. This includes both investment in new technology and processes and dis-investment in legacy technologies — like fax machines — and inefficient processes that are duplicative and siloed. It includes holding technology companies accountable for the outcomes they claim their technologies and processes can provide. This is what consumers do with the products they buy online, and it should be no different for health care system purchases.

Patients deserve access to innovation

Medtronic offers a self-adjusting insulin pump system that could be a game changer for those living with type 1 diabetes. It has been clinically shown to reduce complications associated with glucose levels going too high or too low, and can help keep patients out of the hospital. While the technology is available in Canada, there is currently no public coverage in Ontario for the continuous glucose sensor, which is key to accurate control.

Similarly, despite the significant — and justified — attention placed on the opioid crisis, not enough is being done to offer patients suffering from chronic pain alternatives to opioids. Yet they are already available: for appropriate patients, spinal cord stimulators and targeted drug delivery devices may significantly reduce opioid use. Once again, Ontario lags in the adoption of these evidence-based technologies.

The innovative health care solutions that Ontarians should have access to already exist. It’s time for our public health care system to fully leverage these 21st-century innovations. It’s time for our government to be bold in defining the future of health care delivery in Ontario. And it’s time to bring together all sectors, including the medical technology sector, to both define that future and make it happen.
 



Neil Fraser is the President of Medtronic Canada, Chair of MEDEC, and was featured in A Canadian Healthcare Innovation Agenda: Policy, Governance, and Strategy.