eHealth Ontario – Who Will Join the Team?

Last week I attended a Canadian Healthcare Association (CHA) awards luncheon that honoured outstanding achievement by students in various courses offered by CHA .  The keynote speaker for the event talked to the students and other guest about leadership, a topic of considerable importance in the health sector.    A key attribute of successful leaders, according to the speaker, is the ability to put the right people into the right positions.  He reminded the audience that the leader’s job isn’t to try to do everything themselves.  Rather, it is to create an organization in which people understand what they need to do, have the appropriate skills to do what is asked of them, and can work together as a team  towards a common goal. 

As I listened to the speaker I thought about the new eHealth Ontario agency.  Over the past few months a number of the former Smart Systems for Health Agency (SSHA) executives have left eHealth Ontario, either on their own account or because they were asked to leave.  According to several sources the latest person to depart is Mike Rigo.  As a result, eHealth Ontario has a number of senior level vacancies to fill.  Since I agree with the luncheon speaker’s comments about putting the right people in the right position,  the selection process at eHealth Ontario is of critical importance to the future success of the agency.   The decision to hire Donna Strating as  Senior VP seems to be an example of good choice.  Feedback from hospital eHealth leaders with whom I have spoken about Ms. Strating is very positive. They have been very impressed with their dealings with her to date and they are quite enthusiastic about her  potential future contributions.

I always believed that SSHA was hamstrung by the division of responsiblility for operations and strategy / policy that existed between SSHA and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC).  Saskatchewan tried a similar approach with the Saskacthewan Health Information Network (SHIN) and found it necessarily to merge SHIN with Ministry of Health staff responsible for eHealth to create the Health Information Solutions Centre (HISC).  Neil Garnder, Executive Director for HISC, cited the need to more closely align strategy and operations as a major reason for creating HISC.  Hence, I think that the Ontario eHealth agency is in a much better position to advance the Ontario eHealth agenda than was SSHA.

Mark and I are following with great interest the hiring decisions at the Ontario eHealth Agency.   Getting the right people into the right roles at the agency is perhaps the most important determinant of future success.

Mike

4 responses to “eHealth Ontario – Who Will Join the Team?

  1. I always felt that SSHA was a bit of red headed step child. Always getting the blame for all of the problems in all things eHealth in Ontario. Did they do a bad job…No…did they do a great job, the answer is also No.

    There is a limited public appetite for investing in healthcare, outside of hiring docs/nurses or opening beds. I just hope that the powers that be realize that eHealth Ontario may be the last kick at the can that the province gets. As far as hiring goes, my greatest concern is will they find the right kinds of leaders who will stick their necks out to get the job done right? There is a very limited number of people with the right skills, and most of them have positions with other jurisdictions.

    I have confidence that Sarah Kramer can pull off a miracle with eHealth Ontario, just look at her track record with CCO. What concerns me is will there be enough good people at the tier below (outside of Donna Strating) to make a success of it all? Good question.

    Mark

  2. Like you I have high hopes for Sarah and wish her well in her new role. That said, Sarah can’t do it alone and assembling the right team is one of her most significant challenges. Without the right people I think that eHealth Ontario will flounder.

    Why do you think that there is limited public appetite for investing in healthcare? Statistics clearly show that people are embracing IT for an increasing vareity of everyday tasks. Why would they not want to do so for healthcare? I suspect that there are several reasons:

    – They think that healthcare is more IT enabled that it actually is.

    – The healthcare IT industry has not done a good job promoting the benefits. In a publicly funded system the politicians set many of the priorities including what level of IT investments will be made. Politicians react to what their constinuents say. If the general public doesn’t push the healthcare IT agenda then the politicians aren’t likely to do so.

    – IT expenditures are still viewed by the funders as an expense, not an investment. In a time when there is considerable pressure to reduce overhead costs, treating IT spending as an overhead cost will lead to reduced IT spending.

    Mike

  3. I firmly believe that their is a limited public appetite for investing in healthcare IT because it is far too “down in the weeds”. I cannot honestly think of anyone (outside of my wife) in my own family who even cares about the nitty gritty of the delivery side of healthcare, never mind the IT end of things.

    Canadians only concern themselves about healthcare when they or someone close to them gets sick. Even then they only care enough to learn about the treatment and outcomes. I don’t have a good answer for this malaise of interest, and maybe we simply can’t get the public interested in this stuff. I look at it like a car – I fill it with gas, pay for maintenance and put the key in and drive it from A to B. I don’t have to be a mechanic to drive the thing. Is this not the same situation for healthcare IT? Maybe this is the way it should be?

    Mark

  4. Mark,

    I think that you are quite right when you say that “even then they only care enough to learn about the treatment and outcomes”. Some years ago (perhaps you might be too young to remember 🙂 ) the Canadian government ran a very successful campaign called Participaction to rasie the public’s awareness of the need for physical fitness. I suggest that something is needed for healthcare if we are ever going to deal with financial sustainability of our healthcare system. The best way to reduce the need for healthcare services is to have people to take better care of their health.

    Mike

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