Tag Archives: HIMSS Ontario

Ottawa Digital Health Networking Event

On May 18, 2016 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, HIMSS Ontario is hosting a special networking eventing in Ottawa.  My good friend and digital health commentator, William (Bill) Pascal, will open the evening with a presentation on the state of digital health maturity in Canada. After the presentation you will have the opportunity to explore craft beer, wine and food pairings.  Don’t miss this rare opportunity.

Bill is the former Chief Strategic Advisor, Canadian Medical Association and now Principle, Richard Warren & Associates.  He teamed with Roger Girard, former CIO, Manitoba eHealth (and one of my digital health mentors), to prepare the in-depth assessment of digital health maturity in Canada on which his presentation is based.  Roger will be delivering the same presentation at similar networking event hosted by HIMSS Ontario in Toronto on the same evening.

HIMSS members: Free.

Non-members: $45 (includes HIMSS ON membership).

Location: Mill St. Brew Pub, 555 Wellington St. Ottawa (site of the former Mill restaurant).

Registration & cocktails 5:15-5:45

Speaker 5:45-6:45

Beer/wine/food pairings 6:45-7:30

Sponsored by HEALTHTECH

 

An interview with Mike Barron of COACH: A president’s prespective

This blog post contains an article that was originally published in the March 2015 print edition of Canadian Healthcare Technology magazine:

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The Canadian Organization for the Advancement of Computers in Health is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. More commonly referred to as COACH, this stalwart of the Canadian health IT sector has consistently championed the cause of digital health and advocated on behalf of the health informatics professionals who make it possible.   What does the future hold for COACH? Why should someone join COACH? I put these and other questions to Mike Barron, the current COACH president, in an interview just prior to the Christmas holidays.

Introducing Mike Barron

Ordinarily I would refer to the subject of an article by their last name; e.g. Mr. Barron. However, in this case, doing so simply doesn’t suit the personality of the man. He is one of the most affable and down to earth executives I know.   He pulls no punches yet manages not to offend, no matter how blunt his comments might be.   Mr. Barron just seems too formal and stuffy for such an approachable and friendly man. Instead, I will his first name.

I asked Mike how he ended up working healthcare. Mike explained that his first “main job” was with the Royal Commission on Hospital and Nursing Home Costs in the mid 1980’s.   Two years later, he moved to the General Hospital Corporation in St. John’s to take on the Director of Information Systems. This role, he explained, introduced to him to the “complexities of healthcare.” It was, in Mike’s words, a “rewarding yet challenging” assignment.

At the turn of the century Mike joined the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information (NLCHI) during what he referred to as their “early days.” In 2006, Mike was appointed NLCHI’s CEO.

Given his rather demanding job, I asked Mike why he devotes time to COACH. He explained that when he first joined NLCHI, Canada Health Infoway in its formative years and he was involved in various federal / provincial / territorial (FPT) committees. These committees gave him a “taste of national vision and leadership.”

Getting involved at the board level at COACH was a natural extension of his other national roles. According to Mike, it gave him “an opportunity to participate in an organization outside government” that involved both public and private sector organizations.

Mike has devoted his working career to working in the health sector. Healthcare, Mike observed, is “something that glues us together as Canadians besides hockey” and is subject about which he is unabashedly passionate. His involvement in COACH provides him another outlet besides NLCHI to feed this passion.

COACH’s Role

When asked how COACH fits into the complex Canadian digital health ecosystem, Mike replied that it is the “glue for the health informatics environment.” While COACH is not, in Mike’s words “a one stop shop”, he does feel that it is, “a place where people from different communities can gather.”

Some people with whom I have spoken wonder how COACH is different from HIMSS, an organization with Canadian chapters that is also focused on digital health. Mike pointed out that COACH “offers more accessibility and more meaningful engagement.” While HIMSS supports a “largely private sector constituency, COACH “brings together public sector necessity and private sector reality.”

Some people have suggested that there might be economies of scale to be gained by combining COACH and ITAC Health to create the Canadian equivalent of HIMSS. I asked Mike what he thought of this suggestion. While he did not rule out the possibility in the longer term, he felt that it was important to recognize that “in the current environment, we need to ensure that we don’t lose sight of the constituencies that these groups represent” as well as “the contributions that these associations offer today.”

Mike pointed out that many of the same benefits attributed to the merging of two organizations could also be achieved by partnering. He pointed to collaborative efforts with ITAC Health and CHIMA as examples. “As Canadians, we are not predatory in nature,” Mike noted. “Partnerships are often a preferred model.”

Membership

According to Mike, membership has remained stable between 1,400 and 1,800 members. HIMSS, by comparison boasts 52,000+ members. It never ceases to amaze me how many people in the Canadian digital health community have opted not to join COACH.

I asked Mike about COACH’s plans to grow membership, a stated objective in their 2014-2017 strategic plan. He replied, “You don’t need numbers to denote success.” Instead, COACH is striving to “balance quality and quantity.” He went on to say that COACH is looking for “engaged members” who can “carry the message into various areas of the health system.”

So, why should someone join COACH? Without hesitation Mike rattled off a number of reasons, all sharing two common themes. First, COACH is one of the most effective ways for anyone with an interest in digital health to broaden their horizons. COACH, Mike observed, offers “exposure at very low cost to an extensive knowledge base” and “provides information about and exposure to different areas of health informatics.”

Second, COACH offers an opportunity to become a more active participant in the healthcare system and to join, as Mike describes it, “a complete national network of very bright and experienced healthcare professionals.”

Annual eHealth Conference

For many people, the COACH brand is most closely associated with the annual eHealth conference co-hosted by COACH. Over the past few years both revenue and attendance have declined leading some people to question the conference’s relevancy. Mike acknowledged that there is a “need to make it more applicable and attractive” but also asserted “as a conference it will remain relevant by sheer nature that it is the only national conference.”

While there are factors such as travel restrictions over which COACH has little control, Mike was emphatic that the annual eHealth conference is an event to which COACH is committed. He spoke about a number of ideas for refreshing the annual eHealth conference, starting with a “need to embrace youth.” According to Mike, COACH and its partners are “concentrating on bringing value and entertainment” and striving to “make the conference a more diverse experience.”

On a Personal Note

I closed up my interview with Mike by asking about his personal goals for his two-year tenure as COACH president. He told me that he had two goals. First, he is “very much into strengthening COACH as a sustainable entity” which, he said, was a natural extension of his involvement in the business side of COACH for many years. His second goal is “to reach out to the youth element.” He wants to create a critical mass of members under 40 years old to “carry the torch” after he and other long-time members retire.

As we concluded the interview, we spoke briefly about his life outside work. I learned that his favourite movie is any of the The Godfather movies.   According to Mike, “you can always use a quote from the movie.”

In Summary

I always enjoying speaking with Mike and my interview was no exception. As a ten year COACH member I was more pumped and enthused about COACH than I have been in a long time.

Are you a COACH member? If so, why? If not, why not? Drop me a line at michael.martineau@avenant.ca comment on my blog posts on this topic at eHealthMusings.ca.

COACH / HIMSS Ontario Update 2015

For the second year in a row COACH and HIMSS Ontario are hosting Ontario Update, a one day conference at which key public sector leaders share their insights and offer updates on local, regional and provincial eHealth initiatives.

Speakers at Ontario Update 2015  include Michael Green from Canada Health Infoway, Sarah Hutchison from OntarioMD, Peter Bascom from eHealth Ontario and Dr. Ed Brown from OTN.     The day will include a panel discussion on the current status of the various “connecting” projects: cGTA, cSWO, and cNEO.

I have been a member of the organizing committee for this conference since its inception.  Last year we sold out and had a waiting list of people who wanted to attend.   There are still tickets available for this year but, given the opportunity to connect with public sector leader, these tickets will go quickly.

You can find more details at:

http://www.coachorg.com/en/newsandevents/ONUP-2015-Speakers—Agenda.asp

You can register at: https://ams.coachorg.com/events/list.aspx

I am looking forward to this opportunity to meet with the health IT leaders whose work I track and write about.  I hope to see you there!

Mike

eHealth Ontario Update

Having written about eHealth Ontario’s decision to scrap the Diabetes Registry – one of the agency’s more high profile projects judging by CEO Greg Reed’s references to it during his first year – I was curious to learn more about the state of other eHealth Ontario projects. Since I was having difficulty tracking down up-to-date information on these other projects, I jumped on the opportunity to hear Fariba Rawhani, Senior VP Development and Delivery, speak at the recent itHealthcare conference sponsored by HIMSS Ontario. Since Ms. Rawhani’s presentation is unlikely to be made publicly available, I decided to share what I heard and managed to write down in my monthly “Technology for Doctors” column.  Check it out here.

Mike

Social Media Panel at HIMSS Ontario AGM

It was an offer simply to compelling to refuse.  In my day job I was approached by HIMSS Ontario to sponsor their annual general meeting.  In return for this sponsorship I was given the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion on social media.  Given my company’s current efforts to encourage use of social media by healthcare organizations AND my personal involvement in various social media activities, I jumped at the opportunity.

The HIMSS Ontario AGM takes place next week on June 23rd, 2011 at the Royal Woodbine Golf Club; check out details here.   Four panelists will discuss “The impact of social media on health and healthcare”.    The panelists are:

  • Richard Booth, a doctoral candidate at the University of Western Ontario and a fellow social media advocate
  • Karim Keshavjee, MD, and CEO, Infoclin.
  • James Williams, a privacy consultant
  • Glenn Lanteigne, CIO, SouthWest LHIN

This panel offers a diverse perspective on social media and I look forward to a stimulating discussion.  Colleen Young, #hcsmca founder and expert community manager, has agreed to tweet from the event.

Anyone thinking about how to use social media in their healthcare organization should consider attending this event.  If you read this blog and decide to attend, please make sure that you introduce yourself.  I really enjoy meeting readers. For those of you who cannot attend the event, I encourage you to send your questions for the panel to either Colleen or me in advance of the event or even during the event.

Mike

Canadian eHealth Leadership

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.

Mike

itHealthcare Canada Conference

Earlier this week I attended the first itHealthcare Canada conference hosted by HIMSS Ontario.   I had hoped to live blog and tweet from the event on my iPad but, unfortunately, the conference organizers did not make arrangement for wifi access or, if they did, I was not aware of any such arrangements.  Hence, I will be publishing several blog posts after the event based on notes I took during the event.

A number of people who chose not to attend the event have asked how this event differed from the annual COACH conference.  To be honest, I didn’t see much difference other than scale.  Like the COACH conference, the itHealthcare Canada event featured a series of presentations, several keynote presentations, and a vendor trade show.   While the itHealthcare Canada content was more Ontario focused than the COACH conference, the nature of the presentations was similar in many ways to the COACH conference presentations that I have attended.

As I did at the COACH conference this year, I wandered the show floor asking the vendors whether the trade show was worth their investment in time and money.  For the most part, their feedback was neutral to critical.  While a few vendors felt that it was worth these costs they incurred, most vendors complained, as they did at the COACH conference, that the traffic through the booths was quite light and many stated that they had generated few new leads.

I did find several of the presentations to be quite informative and the networking opportunities were superb (for me, at least).  I will write several blog posts over the next few days on a few of the presentations that I attended.

A topic of many of the hallways conversations in which I engaged was the need for another “national” health IT conference.  While the HIMSS Ontario conference clearly had an Ontario flavour, it was billed as a “Canadian” conference (just look at the name).  There was considerable debate, particularly among the vendors, of the challenge in deciding which of the increasing number of health IT related conferences to attend.  Many of the larger vendors (CGI, Oracle, and IBM, for example) chose not to exhibit at the ITHealthcare Canada conference.  I’d be interested to hear what others think about this question.

Speaking of vendors, I felt that the vendors were discriminated against at the ITHealthcare Canada conference.  To start, vendors were not allowed to submit presentation abstracts for consideration.  Further, there was a different fee structure for vendors.  I feel very strongly that vendors are an integral part of the Canadian health IT landscape and have much to offer.   It is not clear to me (and others) why HIMSS Ontario chose to treat them differently.  Anyone else have any thoughts on this topic?

Mike