Formed in 1975 to promote the effective use of information technology in health.

Our founders recognized that significant sharing of ideas and efforts must take place in order to enable Canadian health institutions to effectively use information technology and systems. The focus has since expanded to include not only the technology and the systems, but also the effective use of health information for decision-making.

Origins

Around 1969, an IBM users group called Electronic Computing Health Oriented (ECHO) was formed. At the time, membership was limited to IBM customers, and their semi-annual meetings were a mix of IBM tech presentations and hospital CIO success stories. At one such event in 1975, Steve Huesing, Assistant Executive Director of the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton, together with IBM National Health Industry Coordinator Robert Zuckerman, decided that a Canadian ECHO might be a good idea. They pulled together all nine of the Canadian delegates in attendance, and a general agreement was reached: there was a definite need for a Canadian organization concerned with Canadian problems in healthcare computing. A national organization that would provide ideas, advice, and leadership to hospitals, government agencies, and medical associations. Steven Huesing volunteered to coordinate, and the idea that would become Digital Health Canada was born. After much debate, the group decided that the fledgling Canadian organization would stand on its own, and not be affiliated with ECHO. A new name was required. At the August 18 + 19 founding meeting in Regina, six newly minted board members discussed membership, objectives, bylaws… and a new name. The Canadian Organization for Advancement of Computers in Health (Digital Health Canada) was now a reality. Eventually, the acronym (COACH) replaced the original name, and the tagline ‘Canada’s Health Informatics Association’ was added in 2001.

Steven Huesing

Our first president, Steven Huesing, was always grateful for conversations with members, and loved having the the opportunity to be enlightened, to learn, to influence, and to share. Sharing knowledge with peers was one of the driving forces behind his efforts to ensure that the association began. Steve valued being part of the team that started of the Canadian Organization for the Advancement of Computers in Health, and was honoured to have been the first President – it was truly his lifetime passion. In 1976, Steve wrote to the COACH membership: “The history of computers in Health Care Delivery Systems is a short one in our country. The increased utilization of computers is not self-evident but inevitable. We hope that COACH can serve as a focal point for the process of sharing our thoughts and learning from one another. Join us and help make it work.” Two significant achievements marked his fifirst years as president: the fifirst national conference, and the fifirst member communication. The fifirst COACH Conference was held in May of that same year, in Ottawa, with 164 attendees representing every province across Canada. The “I/O” newsletter, first published in 1976, provided an opportunity for members to share what was going on in their hospitals throughout the year. The name – I/O – was in reference to the old data processing term – Input/Output – and was published to facilitate a process of learning from one another and sharing experiences in the field of Health Informatics. I/O was replaced by Healthcare Information Management & Communications Canada (HIM&CC) as the official journal of COACH in 1987. Today we honour Steve’s memory with the Steven Huesing Scholarship, established in 1999 in recognition of the contribution that Steven made to the association. The scholarship was developed to reflect the spirit, dedication and innovation that the Founding President brought to the field of health informatics (HI) and is presented to the winner at the annual Canadian Health Informatics Awards Gala during the e-Health Conference and Tradeshow.

Timeline

By the numbers