As Canadians, we rightly pride ourselves on the quality of our health care system, but we must also be vigilant and aware of its shortcomings. Today, our system is robust with innovation in treatment and research, but there is a massive lag in innovation when it comes to access to patient data, which can be just as important to improving outcomes. The way we leverage technology it is stuck in the dark ages.
“We move so slowly in Canada to adopt the most necessary concepts and technologies,” says Michael Billanti, Director of Population Health at Cerner Canada. “We have such an opportunity to move ahead, in the areas of patient access and population health, but our systems are so siloed that we are forced into bad system design or doing nothing because of legacy investments. There is no clear vision to integrate data at a provincial or national level, and there is no clear vision to solve the problems of integrating all the relevant data and ensuring the proper access.
When data is caged, it can’t help us
Billanti envisions a future where patients no longer need to start from scratch every time, they see a new provider. No more telling the same story over and over, year after year. More importantly, he wants to see the walls broken down between different data streams in the health care system, so that patients, and the population as a whole, can be treated holistically with overall outcomes prioritized.
“We’ve developed so many information silos, and nobody owns the responsibility integrating for them,” says Billanti. “There’s a whole network of people responsible for treating cancer, a whole network responsible for treating diabetes, as whole network responsible for COPD and cardiac health. But nobody is responsible for the outcomes as a whole and the data that ties them together. Access means being able to actively digest all that information and create intelligence out of it.”
We need to be using data properly from the moment people enter care. If people get a better start, then they are less of a burden on the health care system.Michael Billanti, Director of Population Health at Cerner Canada
Diverse problems, one solution
As a medical information technology innovator, Cerner champions the idea that data-driven access to personalized health care will not only improve outcomes for patients, but also lower costs, increase capacity in the health care system, and create a better experience for both patients and health care providers. But to do so, we need a complete overhaul of the way we think about the flow and connectivity of medical data.
“Our goal is to create the right feedback and intelligence at every intersection where people engage with the healthcare system,” says Billanti. “We need to be using data properly from the moment people enter care. If people get a better start, then they are less of a burden on the health care system. If we’re making the best use of our data, we can get ahead of the curve and work on keeping people well. And that’s always cheaper. It’s all about being proactive rather than reactive.”
If we don’t do it, it’ll be done to us
It should be alarming to realize that, on a functional level, Google might know more about your health today than your doctor does. The information is out there, the tools to harness it exist, and if the health care system doesn’t step up to take the reins, you have to wonder who will. “Right now we have big data companies collecting and correlating all sorts of data to figure out how to sell you something,” says Billanti. “Instead, we could be correlating that data to figure out how make you better and keep you healthy.”