Earlier this year I published several blog posts about Mr. Greg Reed, eHealth Ontario’s new CEO. In one of these blog posts I noted that Mr. Reed was re-evaluating eHealth Ontario’s role and shared Mr. Reed’s musings on what he thought might be suitable roles for the organization. Late last week I spoke with Mr. Reed to get an update on how his thinking has evolved during his first three months on the job. As I have in the past, I found Mr. Reed to be thoughtful and committed to making eHealth Ontario a respected and valued organization.
As a prelude to our discussion regarding his thoughts on eHealth Ontario’s role, Mr. Reed suggested that it would be helpful to provide some insight into how he had spent his time during his first three months on the job. According to Mr. Reed, his first two priorities during that time were:
- Rebuild the eHealth Ontario senior management team and put in place other organization changes to make the organization as efficient and as responsive as possible. During this time two new Senior Vice-Presidents were appointed along with two new Vice-Presidents.
- Reach out and consult with as many stakeholders as possible. This consultation included meetings with Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) Assistant Deputy Ministers (ADMs) to understand their strategic priorities and get input on how eHealth Ontario can support these priorities. Mr Reed as tried to meet as many people in the field as possible including representatives from teaching hospitals, community hospitals, community care organizations, LHINs, physicians using EMRs, various health-related associations, and other agencies such as Cancer Care Ontario and OntarioMD.
Mr. Reed commented that he had observed a considerable amount of “innovative and impressive work”, particular with regard to the use of electronic health records in the delivery of care. He told me that he cannot understand, based on what he has seen, why we keep talking about electronic health records as something that we will deliver in the future. They are, according to Mr. Reed, already in use today in many organizations. He did note, however, that most current electronic health record systems are purpose and facility specific, with little interchange of patient information between systems.
Mr. Reed’s examination of what is going on across the province has clearly had an impact on his thinking about the role of eHealth Ontario. He feels strongly that the organization must respect and leverage the knowledge of those organizations and individuals who understand the clinical interface with patients and work in partnership with them. Specific areas in which Mr. Reed feels that eHealth Ontario can make a difference include:
- Chronic Disease Management since it cuts across all providers and requires provincial as well as local infrastructure. In accordance with the eHealth Ontario strategy, the initial focus in on diabetes. This focus will not only address the needs of the growing number of diabetics in the province but will also put in place key building blocks need to accelerate other electronic health record initiatives. These building blocks include registries and repositories such as a client registry, a provider registry, OLIS, etc. and the links between them. Mr. Reed indicated that putting these building blocks in place was a top priority and a “critical path item”.
- Encourage interoperability. Mr. Reed notes that the electronic health record systems currently in use have been developed and deployed independent of one another. He believes that we no longer “have the luxury” to continue build independently. Instead, Mr. Reed believes that eHealth Ontario should fund projects that can be “replicated beyond the institution where they were initially developed”. This approach, according to Mr. Reed, is a more effective use of taxpayer dollars and will free up money for other projects.
- Promote the use of electronic health records. Mr. Reed has observed, as have many others, that a large proportion of healthcare is delivered within relatively small geographic areas defined by natural referral patterns. Mr. Reed would like to see more effort devoted to local initiatives that link organizations across these referral patterns and believes that is not necessary to wait for all relevant standards to be finalized in order to do so.
Mr. Reed does not yet have the 10 second sound bite description of eHealth Ontario’s role. However, he does seem in his own mind to have a good sense of how eHealth Ontario can most effectively contribute to advancing the eHealth agenda in Ontario. Three core characteristics of eHealth Ontario’s role that Mr. Reed mentioned several times during our conversation include:
- eHealth Ontario is a service provider and development partner who will work in partnership with the provider community to ensure that healthcare providers have “the most information available in electronic form” and that health records follow the patient.
- eHealth Ontario will develop and provide provincial infrastructure as required.
- eHealth Ontario will provide direction and guidance. Mr. Reed believes that he and his organization are leading a collaborative exercise and that direction will be decided upon in consultation with all stakeholders. Hard decisions will be made when necessary but only after considering all points of view.
I enjoyed my conversation with Mr. Reed. While I am pleased that he was willing to share his thoughts with me knowing that I would, in turn, promulgate them through the various vehicles at my disposal, I am watching with envy as leaders in other countries and in other areas of the public sector embrace social media as a means to interact directly with the people impacted by their decisions. Once again, I encourage Mr. Reed and other eHealth leaders to make greater use of the technology that we are promoting.