The Health Council of Canada closed its doors on the 31st March of this year.  I wonder what, if any, difference the termination of the Council will make for health care reform?

The Council was a national, independent, public reporting agency established in 2003 to monitor policy and program commitments related to the First Ministers’ Accord on Health Care Renewal.  It gathered and shared information on health care innovation across the country – the practices, policies, programs and services that are improving health outcomes and the way health care is delivered.  I used its reports and Health Innovation Portal for some of my own work over the years.  And I guess it fair to say that  some aspects of its work supports the strategic direction of CPCSSN.

For example, in November 2012 one of the Council’s senior policy analysts wrote, “Government-led initiatives are promoting changes like greater use of electronic medical records (EMRs), inter-professional team-based care, and innovations in practice management to help primary care physicians see more patients, more effectively.”

CPCSSN has been working with sentinel physicians and other stakeholders across the country to help support such change.  Our sentinel feedback tool is designed to provide the information practitioners need to better affect the health of their patient population.  A January 2013 news release on the Council’s website announces that the use of information technology means better communication with patients and improved safety, quality and coordinated care.  I was somewhat relieved to see a more patient-centered proclamation, an appreciation of the patient experience.

My eyes fell upon a familiar bit of information; “57% [of Canadians] have at least one chronic condition and 31% have two or more.”  The conditions of this study included arthritis, asthma, and other lung diseases, cancer, mental health problems such as depression or anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.”  (2013 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of the General Public published in the Health Council’s January 2014, Bulletin 8.)  CPCSSN developed and rigorously validated case definitions for eight chronic diseases for surveillance activities and primary care and public health research.

And while there is much work to do in chronic disease prevention, management and intervention practice, I believe this translates to be much more than learning about the prevalence of chronic disease.  It is about improving overall health outcomes for individuals and communities through evidence-based best practices.  How best to do this using electronic medical record-based data?

My considerations lead me to the Conference of Deputy Ministers of Health’s vision for the secondary use of health data; “ … health system use of electronic health data that will both protect the privacy and confidentiality of patients and serve Canadians and Canada’s health care system well into the future.”  (Better Information for Improved Health: A Vision for Health System Use of Data in Canada, June 2013)

This all strikes a chord for me.  I can easily see the role of CPCSSN is comprised of innovators in the capture and use of electronic health data.  We have created a surveillance system, an information technology platform using new sources of health care data.  We have an award-winning privacy and information security system.

As a national network of sentinel surveillance and research collaborators and coordinators, CPCSSN is placed to serve a greater purpose.  I am convinced that our work can influence primary care and public health downstream at the practitioner and best practices level, and upstream at the policy and program levels with research and knowledge development.  We are creating intelligence from primary care data.  We are the bridge between health research, policy and primary care practice.  We are becoming a part of the system for change.  CPCSSN is part of the solution.

October 2014

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Dr. Richard Birtwhistle

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