COACH Board of Directors Candidate – Shiran Isaacksz

I have posted several articles recently related COACH,  Canada’s Health Informatics Association, including one promoting the annual eHealth conference co-hosted by COACH.  In this post I’d like to draw COACH members’ attention to the upcoming board of directors elections.

As the governing body for COACH, the board of directors sets the long term vision and provides strategic direction.   Six highly qualified individuals are standing for election for three positions.    I urge all COACH members to take a few minutes to check out each of the candidates’ profiles on the COACH website and, equally important, to cast your votes before April 15th.

I’d like to introduce one of these candidates, Shiran Isaacksz.  I asked Shiran to provide a brief overview of his background and qualifications for the COACH board.  His response follows.

Shiran Isaacksz has been actively involved as the Senior Director at University Health Network for the Regional/Provincial Portfolio.  In this role, he has led the ConnectingGTA (cGTA) Program and the GTA West Diagnostic Imaging Repository Program over the past 6 years. Shiran has shown strong leadership and effective stakeholder engagement, as he leads two very complex, regional initiatives.

At the local level, he is also the Senior Director responsible for the Resource Matching and Referral initiative in the Toronto Central LHIN and he is a member of the Senior Management team at the Toronto Central Community Care Access Centre, overseeing the organization’s IM Strategic Plan.

He is known for his broad system’s thinking and pragmatic approach to move complex projects forward.  Shiran has been very collaborative in his manner dealing with many health service provides across the continuum of care, eHealth Ontario, the Ministry of Health and Canada Health Infoway.

To better understand the unique experiences, passion and commitment that he will bring as a member of the COACH Board, please visit his candidate profile on the COACH website:  http://www.coachorg.com/en/membership/Shiran-Isaacksz-2015.asp

Mike

Why I attend the Canadian eHealth Conference

As winter ever so slowly releases its icy grip, my thoughts turn not only to spring and warmer weather but also to the approaching e-Health Conference. Since attending my first e-Health Conference in 2004, this event has become a tradition that I eagerly await with nearly the same anticipation I feel for major holidays. What is it about this Conference that makes it such a “must attend” event for me?

Check out the rest of the article on the eHealth conference blog … click here

Mike

An interview with Mike Barron of COACH: A president’s prespective

This blog post contains an article that was originally published in the March 2015 print edition of Canadian Healthcare Technology magazine:

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The Canadian Organization for the Advancement of Computers in Health is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. More commonly referred to as COACH, this stalwart of the Canadian health IT sector has consistently championed the cause of digital health and advocated on behalf of the health informatics professionals who make it possible.   What does the future hold for COACH? Why should someone join COACH? I put these and other questions to Mike Barron, the current COACH president, in an interview just prior to the Christmas holidays.

Introducing Mike Barron

Ordinarily I would refer to the subject of an article by their last name; e.g. Mr. Barron. However, in this case, doing so simply doesn’t suit the personality of the man. He is one of the most affable and down to earth executives I know.   He pulls no punches yet manages not to offend, no matter how blunt his comments might be.   Mr. Barron just seems too formal and stuffy for such an approachable and friendly man. Instead, I will his first name.

I asked Mike how he ended up working healthcare. Mike explained that his first “main job” was with the Royal Commission on Hospital and Nursing Home Costs in the mid 1980’s.   Two years later, he moved to the General Hospital Corporation in St. John’s to take on the Director of Information Systems. This role, he explained, introduced to him to the “complexities of healthcare.” It was, in Mike’s words, a “rewarding yet challenging” assignment.

At the turn of the century Mike joined the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information (NLCHI) during what he referred to as their “early days.” In 2006, Mike was appointed NLCHI’s CEO.

Given his rather demanding job, I asked Mike why he devotes time to COACH. He explained that when he first joined NLCHI, Canada Health Infoway in its formative years and he was involved in various federal / provincial / territorial (FPT) committees. These committees gave him a “taste of national vision and leadership.”

Getting involved at the board level at COACH was a natural extension of his other national roles. According to Mike, it gave him “an opportunity to participate in an organization outside government” that involved both public and private sector organizations.

Mike has devoted his working career to working in the health sector. Healthcare, Mike observed, is “something that glues us together as Canadians besides hockey” and is subject about which he is unabashedly passionate. His involvement in COACH provides him another outlet besides NLCHI to feed this passion.

COACH’s Role

When asked how COACH fits into the complex Canadian digital health ecosystem, Mike replied that it is the “glue for the health informatics environment.” While COACH is not, in Mike’s words “a one stop shop”, he does feel that it is, “a place where people from different communities can gather.”

Some people with whom I have spoken wonder how COACH is different from HIMSS, an organization with Canadian chapters that is also focused on digital health. Mike pointed out that COACH “offers more accessibility and more meaningful engagement.” While HIMSS supports a “largely private sector constituency, COACH “brings together public sector necessity and private sector reality.”

Some people have suggested that there might be economies of scale to be gained by combining COACH and ITAC Health to create the Canadian equivalent of HIMSS. I asked Mike what he thought of this suggestion. While he did not rule out the possibility in the longer term, he felt that it was important to recognize that “in the current environment, we need to ensure that we don’t lose sight of the constituencies that these groups represent” as well as “the contributions that these associations offer today.”

Mike pointed out that many of the same benefits attributed to the merging of two organizations could also be achieved by partnering. He pointed to collaborative efforts with ITAC Health and CHIMA as examples. “As Canadians, we are not predatory in nature,” Mike noted. “Partnerships are often a preferred model.”

Membership

According to Mike, membership has remained stable between 1,400 and 1,800 members. HIMSS, by comparison boasts 52,000+ members. It never ceases to amaze me how many people in the Canadian digital health community have opted not to join COACH.

I asked Mike about COACH’s plans to grow membership, a stated objective in their 2014-2017 strategic plan. He replied, “You don’t need numbers to denote success.” Instead, COACH is striving to “balance quality and quantity.” He went on to say that COACH is looking for “engaged members” who can “carry the message into various areas of the health system.”

So, why should someone join COACH? Without hesitation Mike rattled off a number of reasons, all sharing two common themes. First, COACH is one of the most effective ways for anyone with an interest in digital health to broaden their horizons. COACH, Mike observed, offers “exposure at very low cost to an extensive knowledge base” and “provides information about and exposure to different areas of health informatics.”

Second, COACH offers an opportunity to become a more active participant in the healthcare system and to join, as Mike describes it, “a complete national network of very bright and experienced healthcare professionals.”

Annual eHealth Conference

For many people, the COACH brand is most closely associated with the annual eHealth conference co-hosted by COACH. Over the past few years both revenue and attendance have declined leading some people to question the conference’s relevancy. Mike acknowledged that there is a “need to make it more applicable and attractive” but also asserted “as a conference it will remain relevant by sheer nature that it is the only national conference.”

While there are factors such as travel restrictions over which COACH has little control, Mike was emphatic that the annual eHealth conference is an event to which COACH is committed. He spoke about a number of ideas for refreshing the annual eHealth conference, starting with a “need to embrace youth.” According to Mike, COACH and its partners are “concentrating on bringing value and entertainment” and striving to “make the conference a more diverse experience.”

On a Personal Note

I closed up my interview with Mike by asking about his personal goals for his two-year tenure as COACH president. He told me that he had two goals. First, he is “very much into strengthening COACH as a sustainable entity” which, he said, was a natural extension of his involvement in the business side of COACH for many years. His second goal is “to reach out to the youth element.” He wants to create a critical mass of members under 40 years old to “carry the torch” after he and other long-time members retire.

As we concluded the interview, we spoke briefly about his life outside work. I learned that his favourite movie is any of the The Godfather movies.   According to Mike, “you can always use a quote from the movie.”

In Summary

I always enjoying speaking with Mike and my interview was no exception. As a ten year COACH member I was more pumped and enthused about COACH than I have been in a long time.

Are you a COACH member? If so, why? If not, why not? Drop me a line at michael.martineau@avenant.ca comment on my blog posts on this topic at eHealthMusings.ca.

COACH / HIMSS Ontario Update 2015

For the second year in a row COACH and HIMSS Ontario are hosting Ontario Update, a one day conference at which key public sector leaders share their insights and offer updates on local, regional and provincial eHealth initiatives.

Speakers at Ontario Update 2015  include Michael Green from Canada Health Infoway, Sarah Hutchison from OntarioMD, Peter Bascom from eHealth Ontario and Dr. Ed Brown from OTN.     The day will include a panel discussion on the current status of the various “connecting” projects: cGTA, cSWO, and cNEO.

I have been a member of the organizing committee for this conference since its inception.  Last year we sold out and had a waiting list of people who wanted to attend.   There are still tickets available for this year but, given the opportunity to connect with public sector leader, these tickets will go quickly.

You can find more details at:

http://www.coachorg.com/en/newsandevents/ONUP-2015-Speakers—Agenda.asp

You can register at: https://ams.coachorg.com/events/list.aspx

I am looking forward to this opportunity to meet with the health IT leaders whose work I track and write about.  I hope to see you there!

Mike

Pragmatic Interoperability

The idea for this article hit me so suddenly I was concerned that I might have uttered the title out loud in the middle of someone else’s presentation! I was attending an ITAC Health workshop on healthcare interoperability and was listening to Trevor Hodge, Executive Vice-President at Canada Health Infoway, introduce Infoway’s clinical interoperability strategy. When Mr. Hodge cited the Alberta NetCare Viewer as a highly successful example of interoperability that met clinicians’ needs, I realized that interoperability could take many forms and that a pragmatic approach may be the most appropriate short-term strategy.

Check out the remainder of this article at Technology for Doctors.

Mike

The Interoperability Imperative

This article originally appeared in Healthcare Information Management & Communications Management magazine:

Call me a “fan boy” but I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Apple’s iPhone 6. Having written about the disruptive potential of digital health platforms, I was eager to play with apps designed for the new HealthKit platform (and that took advantage of the iPhone 6’s many built-in sensors). Even before I began to explore the functionality of the first HealthKit enabled app that I installed, I was struck by how it easyit is to share data among these apps. I simply indicated during the installation process which data elements I wanted to read from and write to the HealthKit repository and I was done. If only the sharing of my personal health data across the various health IT systems in which it is stored was so easy!

Interoperability, like innovation, is one of those words that has become so overused that it risks oblivion in buzzword hell. Equally concerning, it is a term that few people outside the health IT community use and care very little about. Yet, interoperability (or, perhaps, more correctly, lack of interoperability) has proven to be a major impediment to realizing the full potential of health IT.

Karen DeSalvo, Director of the Office National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (often referred to as the ONC) in the United States, has made impassioned pleas about the interoperability imperative at various events since she was appointed less than a year ago. At the annual HIMSS conference, held this year in Orlando, Ms. DeSalvo told attendees:

“We have made impressive progress on our infrastructure, but we have not reached our shared vision of having this interoperable system where data can be exchanged and meaningfully used to improve care.”

A similar situation exists in Canada. In a brochure advertising an interoperability workshop scheduled to take place in October 2014 (before this article is published), ITAC Health offers the following summary:

“For years the Health ICT industry in Canada has struggled with the challenge of interoperability. Application developers are faced with a dizzying array of standards, jurisdictional requirements and legacy environments.”

At the annual American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) conference held this year in San Diego, Ms. DeSalvo observed that healthcare data “must be plug-and-play. It’s not helpful if it just sits there idle.”

I was intrigued by Ms. DeSalvo’s choice of words. To be useful, Ms. DeSalvo contends, healthcare data must be able to move to where it is needed. This notion of data liquidity, which the Institute of Medicine defines as “the rapid, seamless, secure exchange of useful, standards- based information among authorized individual and institutional senders and recipients”, captures the essence of what we are trying to achieve when we talk about interoperability.

So, how do we achieve data liquidity? Dr. Doug Fridsma, Chief Scientist at the ONC (and soon to be President and Chief Executive Officer for the American Medial Informatics Association (AMIA)), contends that tackling this challenge “from the top down isn’t going to work.”

In a HealthITBuzz (the ONC’s blog) post earlier this year, Dr. Fridsma offered insights on how to achieve interoperability on a large scale. These insights were gleaned from a Software Engineering Institute report entitled “Ultra-Large Scale Systems: The Software Challenge of the Future.” He notes that the characteristics of ultra-large-scale systems described in the SEI report have “an eerie similarity to the challenges we face in the overall health IT industry.”

“Ultra-large scale systems are not about a single software application, or a couple of applications working together, but rather an ‘ecosystem’ of interacting software systems,” notes Dr. Fridsma. These systems “cannot be managed ‘top down’ in a monolithic way, but will require a coordinated, decentralized way of meeting local needs, while keeping all of the systems working together.”

This notion of ecosystem is reflected in the ONC’s 10-year vision for an interoperable health IT infrastructure. This vision is based on what the ONC refers to as “five critical building blocks”

  1. Core technical standards and functions
  2. Certification to support adoption and optimization of health IT products and services
  3. Privacy and security protections for health information
  4. Supportive business, clinical, cultural, and regulatory environments
  5. Rules of engagement and governance

These building blocks are similar to the key enablers that Canada Health Infoway lists in its Pan-Canadian Digital Health Strategic Plan.

Ken Stevens, VP, Healthcare Solutions, Intelliware Development
Inc. and Co-Chair of the ITAC Health Interoperability and Standards Committee, offers what I think is perhaps the best summary of the interoperability imperative. Commenting on one of my posts on the eHealth Musings blog, Ken writes:

“Interoperability and data mobility have a huge impact on whether innovation is even possible …. Wherever valuable data is accessible through simple open standards, innovation will flourish.”

What are your thoughts on the interoperability imperative? How can we achieve data liquidity? What needs to change?

First impressions of Canada Health Infoway’s new CEO

Like many people in the Canadian Digital Health community, I was quite surprised this past June when the board of directors for Canada Health Infoway announced that they had selected Mr. Michael Green as their next President and Chief Executive Officer.

Uncharacteristically, I have had little to say on this appointment and have told anyone who asked that I had not yet formulated an opinion. After contemplating the matter and having had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Green, I am now ready to answer the question that so many readers have posed since the announcement in June: What do I think about Mr. Green’s appointment?

Read the rest of the article at Technology for Doctors.

Mike