Maintaining the healthcare system is hard work: My decision to the deep dive into Canada’s most complicated system

Contributed by Janet Song

OntarioMD is excited to partner with the Quality Improvement Practical Experience Program (QIPEP) at Queen’s University. Our two organizations share a passion for quality improvement in health care and a commitment to developing future health care leaders.

QIPEP aligns with OntarioMD’s EMR Practice Enhancement Program (EPEP) in seeking to enhance the quality improvement competencies of EMR users and students who will shape the future of health care increasingly enabled by digital health services.

In this blog post, Janet Song shares her perspective on how quality improvement will help practices, the impact of digital health, and more.


Why did you decide to join QIPEP?

My interest in Ontario’s healthcare system began with my frustration as a patient. It was a month of being ill in my second year of university where I was travelling from clinic to clinic, in a desperate search for a diagnosis. It was through hours in different waiting rooms, multiple retellings of the same medical history, and dealing with the inability to eat solid food, when a doctor finally decided to do a specific blood test for H.Pylori, when I finally discovered my illness.

Throughout this month-long journey, I became tired of complaining about everything wrong about my experience, and instead, I found the motivation find a way to improve the quality of our health care system.

It was through following the Queen’s Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Facebook page where I found the opportunity to receive hands-on experience to do research in healthcare quality and improvement at a healthcare institution.

As a fourth-year commerce student who is interested in experience in healthcare management, I am extremely excited that experience will enable me to do work that can directly support the improvement of hospital operations to better improve the lives of patients. My project is in the cardiology unit at KHSC which involves working with hospital workers in assessing sources of delay for cardiac order entries for doctors to order care actions for nurses on their patients.

Why do you think Quality Improvement is important to your future practice?

Quality Improvement (QI) is important for my future practice because of my interest in utilizing my management degree to socially impacting the lives of those, and healthcare management is definitely a place where I can positively make a difference in someone else’s life.

I want to learn how to manage certain components of this complicated system, and it begins with starting in a small component of the healthcare sector and learning how to improve the quality of it. It is through the process of the Planning, Doing, Studying, and Acting (PDSA) model in my work. This process will sharpen my research, planning and implementation capacities to not only practice healthcare management in the future but also better manage a complicated system to positively impact the lives of others in other fields as well.

Additionally, as an Ontarian, I deeply care about the future of this fragile system, and I want to be part of improving the system.

In 2017, Ontario was recorded as having the shortest waiting times on average in the country at 15.4 weeks, which is under Canada’s average of 21.5 weeks.

However, digging deeper into this information, the Government of Ontario continues to balance $312 billion ($122,919 per Ontarian) where the cost of healthcare is almost 40%, pushing out resources for other social services to maintain this expense and also paying for interest— which half of the education expenses.

The major question lies, how sustainable is our healthcare system? How much longer can an insurmountable amount of debt be maintained in Ontario?

What do you think of digital health? Where do you think it’s going?

The greatest demand comes from the area of the greatest need; the increasing senior population.

Ontario has a senior population that is aged 65 and over is projected to almost double from 2.4 million, or 16.7 percent of the population, in 2017 to 4.6 million, or 24.8 percent, by 2041. This population is living longer lives, the model of the emphasis of healthcare services in hospitals, the highest healthcare expense, transformed into a home care model.

How can Canada prepare for this great demand?

It begins with redefining care to support these seniors through homecare and digitizing the experience to efficiently distribute resources, minimize costs, and still deliver quality care. Consumer digital health tools increasingly will focus on chronic disease management.

Incredible organizations are taking great steps towards improving this complicated system such as SE Futures, the innovation arm of the home care provider Saint Elizabeth. They focus on priorities such as new senior living communities, patient experiences in-home (home self-screening), homecare experience, caregiver experience (chatbot support), and more.