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Blog July 25, 2018

The 1, 2, 3 Guide to Disrupting Health Care

1. Why
Why should we want to disrupt health care? What’s wrong with the health care we’re getting now?

There is no question in my mind that we are blessed with incredibly talented and altruistic health professionals pretty much anywhere you can go in Ontario. However, the truth is, the way we are delivering that care as a health system is not working so well anymore. We are burdened with a health delivery system that hasn’t evolved all that much since Tommy Douglas invented medicare in the 1960s. But don’t take my word for it.

According to the 2016 Commonwealth Survey, Canada is lagging dead last behind all other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) when it comes to same-day access to primary care and wait times for appointments with specialists. Two-thirds of us don’t think our system is working well. And beyond that survey, anyone who reads the newspapers is aware of the problems of “hallway medicine” and overburdened hospitals.

We are working within a system built for acute episodic care which cannot effectively address the increasing numbers of our aging population living with long-term chronic diseases. That requires a very different kind of care management.

2. How
There are no magic bullets to fix something as complicated, enormous, and resistant to change as our health care system. We will need to keep cheering on our leadership to make the courageous changes required. However, there are things we can do right now to begin to change the system, thanks to technology. That same kind of change that has revolutionized other industries – banking, retail, travel – for the better.

Virtual health care improves access to care for patients and supports care in the home, rather than hospital. It enables people to initiate virtual visits with their own family doctor. It makes it possible for patients with chronic conditions to self-manage so that they enjoy healthier lives, understand their conditions, comply with medication requirements and avoid the triggers that often send them to hospital. It provides new ways for people living with mental health challenges to access care. It connects people to providers once they leave the hospital, avoiding unnecessary readmissions. And it gives people the option to be at home rather than hospital when they need to deal with some of life’s greatest challenges like dialysis, frailty or the ultimate challenge of palliative care.

All of the above examples are already happening in pockets across Ontario and we have definitively demonstrated that, similar to every other industry, applying the right digital-enabled process can help those who need it most, improve the patient experience AND avoid cost to the health system at the same time. It’s a win-win we can no longer afford to ignore.

The way to disrupt health care is by creating a genuinely patient-centric system . People get great care when they see their doctor or specialist, or go to the hospital, but each of these are providing individual services, not integrated care. There’s no overall plan laid out just for you. No one person or organization is accountable for you – that means changing our focus from fitting patients into the healthcare assets to asking what type of services each group of patients really needs and then building a coordinated service that meets those needs. Put all of the providers on the same team with one access point for the patient – leveraging virtual health care as the glue that holds it all together.

That may be a challenge but my premise is that we can “lead from behind” with virtual health care, developing models of care that work for patients and business models that enable providers to participate in a tangible, transparent care process that leads to better outcomes.

3. What
What can you do to disrupt health care?

Just ask yourself what access you or someone in your family want or need. What resources are needed to be an active partner in managing your own health? Are you receiving integrated health care or just service delivery from unconnected providers?

Once we start to think about what patients really need, it opens a whole new world of opportunity. There is low hanging fruit everywhere with opportunities to insert digitally-enabled care processes into every day care delivery and disrupt 1960s health care.

Related Blogs by Dr. Ed Brown:
The Dawn of Customer Service in Health Care

About the author: Dr. Brown is a founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), one of the largest and most active integrated telemedicine networks in the world.