My baggage for the HIMSS Europe & Health 2.0 Conference

Posted on: 29.03.2018
Airport with luggages

In addition to my carry-on and checked luggage, when I fly to Sitges (Barcelona) as a social media ambassador in May for the upcoming HIMSS Europe & Health 2.0 Conference I will be bringing a fairly large quantity of baggage in terms of my values, beliefs and thinking when it comes to health care system and digital health.

Some of this baggage has been shaped by my upbringing and education while much has been determined by more than 30 years of observing and reporting on health care and medicine, primarily in Canada but also in the United States, Europe and globally.

Six principles for any quality health system

At the fundamental level, I believe any quality health system should be shaped by six fundamental principles: safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness, efficiency, timeliness and equity (principles adopted by the health quality council where I currently work).

However, a lot of what I see as making sense in the realm of digital health and innovation was expressed just this week in a very Canadian-sounding document Fit for Purpose: Findings and Recommendations of the External Review of the Pan-Canadian Health Organizations-Summary Report.

Prepared by two Canadian health policy experts, the document reviewed eight federally funded but arms-length Pan-Canadian health organizations including Canada Health Infoway, which is responsible for developing and accelerating the implementation of digital health across the country, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Information – Canada’s main health data gathering agency.

The report states very clearly that moving forward such national organisations must “embrace health data and IT for innovation (and) support learning health systems.”

The report goes on to say that to enable such systems:

Our health systems need to be fully electronically enabled and inter-operable. Data from large administrative data sets, electronic health records and patient disease registries need to be linked and available to health-care providers in ways that respect privacy but that also allow rapid turnaround, so that providers and organizations can adjust the services they deliver in response to feedback. Furthermore, patients must be able to access their own data and information and understand how their outcomes compare to the outcomes of others. And finally, researchers must be able to access the data they need to answer questions that can yield health-care improvements - both from the world of "big data" and - in appropriately anonymized and secure ways - from EHRs across the country.”

A similar vision for the future was also voiced in another major report on innovation in health care in Canada just a few years ago but has yet to receive tangible backing at the federal level.

I am fairly certain the wish list of interoperable systems and patient-access are ones that will be shared by many attending the HIMSS Europe & Health 2.0 Conference in Sitges.

So, while there will be no maple syrup in my luggage I hope this provides a sense of where I am from and what I hope to bring to the conversation.

Pat Rich

Health Writer and Social Media Commentator