From notes by Alana Esty, Information System Reporting Analyst, Better Outcomes Registry & Network (BORN) Ontario
Digital Health Canada’s UpOnDigital 2022: Update on Ontario Digital Health Virtual Conference took place on March 7. Just under 300 attendees gathered online for an afternoon of learning from public and private sector leaders exploring themes of importance to Ontario patients, caregivers, and digital health professionals.
The afternoon Hospitals Panel Discussion with Mari Teitelbaum (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario), Ron Riesenbach (Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care), Rachel Solomon (SickKids), Cindy Fedell (Northwestern Ontario Hospitals) and Andriana Lukich (St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton) tackled a wide range of issues facing hospital systems.
Although hospital systems have been dealing with significant challenges these past two years, it is important to spotlight the positives. For instance, the Children’s Hospital for Eastern Ontario was able to help by successfully admitting adult patients into the paediatric ICU.
Rapid Changes in Healthcare
“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen” – Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.
Although there have been changes within the healthcare system, such as an increase in wages for personal support workers, these supports, although significant, will not fix the challenges within the healthcare system. Innovation is key. Digital health cannot fix a broken system, we require aid from the government to align incentives.
Using Social Determinants of Health Data (SDoH) to Understand Disparities
The pandemic was a catalyst to expose the disparate vaccine rates across the country. In the past, there have been different levels of seriousness when it comes to collecting SDoH data, it is key that these elements are collected. We need to make the environment for patients culturally safe, so they feel comfortable entering this data.
Using Data to Address Care Gaps
This cannot be addressed if there is a lack of data and data infrastructures. This might be the case when considering remote communities, some of which don’t participate in the census, thus there is a lack of understanding about the needs of these groups. These individuals are not participating for a reason, there is a lack of trust that needs to be addressed and hospital systems don’t have the data infrastructure needed to make significant changes.
How the Digital Strategy Has Changed During the Pandemic
We are now using data to look at the surgical backlog that the pandemic has caused, so that patients can receive care as quickly as possible, despite the delay. Data can also be used to look at equitable access, not just looking at the average trends, but drawing one’s attention to the outliers and individuals who are living at the margins.