eHealth Ontario – Let’s shift the debate

Despite the recent negative publicity about eHealth Ontario, I still think that the agency is a good idea and that we need to be careful about not throwing out the baby with the bath water when discussing how to handle this matter. As I said in acomment to another post on this blog, I’m not going to offer an opinion about the spending decisions at eHealth, mainly because I don’t have all the facts, only what has been reported in the media. I feel strongly, however, that a provincial organization of some form is needed to provide leadership, direction, and coordination of the provincial initiatives to put in place eHealth infrastructure and applications.

Once the furor over eHealth Ontario’s spending practices fades aways, I think that the public debate should shift to eHealthOntario’s strategy. We are going to invest significant dollars over the next few years developing and deploying eHealth infrastructure and applications and we should dissect eHealth Ontario’s plans for spending these dollars. I offer this suggestion not because I believe that their strategy is flawed but, rather, would like to see more people provide input to eHealth Ontario and thereby, hopefully, create more transparency about what eHealth Ontario is doing.   There are some talented people working for and with eHealth Ontario.  These people are devoted to advancing the eHealth agenda in Ontario and I believe that public debate will provide better insight into their work.

Mark, what do you think?


3 responses to “eHealth Ontario – Let’s shift the debate

  1. As you well know I love transparency. I think we need to see if McGuinty can stand the political heat first. If it gets to hot someone is going to lose their job. Making the giant assumption that most if not all of the senior folks survive over the summer then they need to focus on:

    1) Consultants: get rid of consultants and get FTE ASAP. Good luck with that because the number of people with these skills are from from the same pot.

    2) Strategy: Focus on improving your PR messaging, but more importantly on what you are actually doing instead of saying. Open contracts up to bid even if it is not the most efficient means. Improve the transparency by open public discussion and then actually act on the key issues instead of writing a report about it.

    I think their eHealth strategy itself is sound from a technical and architectural perspective, but that I believe is not the issue. Making the culture of this organization open, transparent, accountable and willing to act instead of saying you are going to act is important.

    In closing I’m going to stick my neck out…hopefully not to get chopped off. I believe that this mess is a direct result of:

    a) The inability of all of us in eHealth to communicate the value of the investment to Joe Lunch pail. I’m willing to say that I’m just as guilty as the government, vendors, etc on this one.

    b) The clubby nature of the eHealth industry in Canada. There are two degrees of separation amongst vendors, consultants, CIOs, govt types etc. It is not uncommon to see the same people in different companies or organizations from year to year. Few people leave the industry. Take this culture and apply it to the eHealth Ontario issue and it is not surprising to see no bids amongst friends. Relatively speaking, there are few people (myself included) who have any kind of domain knowledge. Why is everyone so surprised when the general public (in the midst of the worst economic situation since the 30’s) sees no bid back scratching amongst “the club”. I think the issue has more to do with the limited supply of people with domain knowledge. Its not like Sarah could have gone out and found 3o firms that offer the same level of eHealth knowledge and scale as Courtyard and Accenture.

    Call me a cynic, but this was bound to happen.


  2. So, how do we more effectively communicate the value to the general public (by the way, I’m not fond of the “Joe Lunchpail” label … I think it is somewhat demeaning of blue collar workers, a portion of the population to which many people in my family belong)? Equally important, who should take the lead in doing so?


  3. As far as more effectively communicating the value to the general public I don’t have a silver bullet. Maybe a course on dealing with the press should be mandatory. This would not be a course in spin, but in clearly articulating the value in terms that don’t require any domain knowledge. Interesting question on who should take the lead…mmm…. my first thought is COACH but they may be too close the industry. Not in a bad way, but in terms of a “forest and trees” argument. Maybe the better question is how do other industries communicate and how can we apply their own lessons learned?

    As far as the Joe Lunchpail label, you have a point. I grew up in small town Ontario in a blue collar family and spent the first 5 years of my career as a Lunchpail. I agree the term may be a little blunt, but I thought it somewhat tame in comparison to some of the other language I grew up with. 🙂


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