I met this week with Greg Reed, CEO at eHealth Ontario. As he nears his first anniversary in the CEO role, Mr. Reed reflected briefly on progress to date dealing with the Auditor General’s concerns and spent considerable time explaining how the agency will lead the “development of interoperable electronic health records across all classes of providers using regional hubs that correspond to natural referral areas”. Mr. Reed shared that he has and continues to spend much of his time working with stakeholders across the continuum of care to ensure that they are meaningfully engaged in the process of defining what will be achieved and how it will be accomplished. While much of this work remains largely unseen by many people, Mr. Reed believes that it is an absolutely critical step in executing a cohesive plan for accelerating adoption and effective use of IT in the Ontario health sector.
Like others with whom I have spoken in the past few months, I am frustrated at times with what appears to be the relatively slow pace at which eHealth Ontario appears to be moving. Yet, when I chat with Mr. Reed, I am reminded of the enormous challenge he faces in trying to meaningfully engage a diverse set of stakeholders. Unlike large US healthcare organizations such as Kaiser Permanente or the Veterans Administration that are often cited as model users of health IT, the Ontario health sector is not managed as a single organization. Rather, it is a complex ecosystem of relatively independent organizations that range in size from solo medical practices to very large hospitals. While mandating a specific direction may at times be tempting, previous attempts to do so proved disastrous and Mr. Reed has opted instead to employ a more consultative approach.
Is Mr. Reed’s approach the way to go? Consultation takes time and many people feel that the time for talking has passed. Though I often share this point of view, my periodic conversations with Mr. Reed leave me wondering whether patience and a willingness to engage all stakeholders may actually achieve better results in the long term than iron-fisted dictate. Listening to Mr. Reed speak, I cannot help but feel that he has a clearly well thought out plan for getting the various stakeholders moving in the same direction, a direction that they have collaboratively developed and in which they mutually agree to head. Maybe it is time that Mr. Reed publicly offers more insight into his activities and philosophies. Many people may still not agree with his approach but at least they will be assured that he does in fact have one.