I spent 10 days in New Zealand several years ago to see first hand how that country was integrating IT into the delivery of healthcare services. Towards the end of my time in New Zealand I flew from Christchurch to Auckland and was met in Auckland by a limo to take me to my hotel. The limo driver, a jovial gentleman in his early 60’s who introduced himself as “Don”, asked me where I lived and what I did for a living. Having learned from past experience that terms such as eHealth or healthcare IT were often met with polite nods or sometimes even blank stares, I stated quite simply that I was a consultant who examined how computers were used to help deliver improved healthcare service. To my complete surprise and utter delight he announced “Yes, they are”.
I was momentarily stunned. I have spent more than 25 years of my life developing and selling IT solutions relevant to specific target audiences and I am used to polite nods but little real interest. Regaining my composure, I asked my new friend to elaborate on why he had responded so positively.
With great enthusiasm Don recalled his recent treatment for kidney stones, from initial diagnosis to treatment. Don wrapped up his story by saying how delighted he was with his medical treatment and that he attributed this positive experience in part to the use of computers. Yes, you read that correctly. Without any encouragement on my part, he made the connection between the use of computers by the healthcare providers with whom he dealt and the quality of his care. He articulated with simple words and a warm, satisfied smile what many of us have been espousing for years: eHealth can have a positive impact on healthcare services delivery.
Sadly, it does not appear that we have quite the same level of public recognition of the benefits of digitizing our health system in Canada. To address this lack of awareness, Canada Health Infoway plans to launch a public awareness campaign this fall that includes both print and television advertising along with a dedicated web site to which people can go to get more information. Kirk Fergusson, Infoway’s VP, Corporate Affairs, offered to sneak peak of several elements of this campaign to attendees of the 10th annual Canadian Healthcare Manager’s eHealth Summit held this year in Gravenhurst; I was privileged to attend this event as a guest of Canadian Healthcare Manager.
The Infoway public relations campaign appears to be well thought out and demonstrates some much needed leadership in raising public awareness about the benefits of investing public funds in eHealth related projects. I spoke with Kirk at length after dinner on the second night of the conference and he shared with me the efforts that he and his team have taken to get input from various stakeholder communities. While I have not had the opportunity to verify Kirk’s claims, it certainly sounds like the right steps are being taken to engage the appropriate people and to determine what will resonate best with the general public.
I am pleased to see Infoway take steps to inform and engage the general public. I look forward to the day when my Canadian taxi driver has an equally compelling story about how computers played an important and noticeable role in the delivery of the healthcare services that he received.