At the itHealthcare Canada conference and exhibition organized by HIMSS Ontario earlier this month, one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Kevin Leonard, questioned whether we have the appropriate leadership in Canada to aggressively drive deployment and effective use of eHealth applications. While munching on some leftover turkey this weekend, I was catching up on various blogs that I read and came across a post on the eHealthCentral blog on that caused me to think about Kevin’s comments regarding eHealth leadership in Canada.
The eHealthCentral blog post mused about the current situation in Australia. Like Infoway in Canada, the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) in Australia attempting to coordinate eHealth deployment. The eHealthCentral blog post notes concerns that “NEHTA’s powers are to some extent limited by its structure, and by the fact that there are too many government instrumentalities that have a finger in the ehealth pie, and too many vested interests at work in the industry.” The blog post further explores the complex environment in Australia, noting that:
“At a national level you’ve got DOHA setting policy for the primary care sector. At the State and jurisdictional level you’ve got State governments setting their own priorities and policies for the hospital sector. You’ve got Medicare, which is a division of the Department of Human Services. If you were trying to bake a cake with those ingredients, you’d have a persistent problem of them separating out.”
Trisha Greenlagh, a noted commentator on the UK eHealth market, suggested to the eHealthCentral blog author that “Australian ehealth needed a publicly identified leader at the helm.” Ms. Greenlagh stated that “We don’t really want a formal leadership structure” but, rather, “de-centred” leadership with a clearly identified spokesperson who can “articulate what is going on.”. She suggests that “It wouldn’t necessarily be the big guy on the big salary who is in charge. It would be a little more subtle and de-centred, just like as in an ant colony, where there is no chief executive ant. I do think a lot of the leadership will be from clinicians.”
Given the many criticisms leveled at Canada Health Infoway, I do wonder if perhaps are expecting too much from one organization, particularly given its governance structure. As Trisha Greenlagh notes, there are substantial benefits to having a recognized spokesperson, like Dr. Blumenthal in the US, who can tell the eHealth story in a compelling manner that catalyzes action and rallies support across disparate stakeholder communities.