US-Canadian Healthcare Conversations and Our Shared Missions: On to Vancouver!

At this week’s Health IT Summit in Vancouver, expect nuanced discussions of the common challenges facing U.S. and Canadian healthcare in a time of accelerating change

In the run-up to the Health IT Summit in Vancouver, being held later this week at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in downtown Vancouver, I’ve been having delightful conversations with some of the panelists who will be participating in discussions that I’ll be moderating. What’s fantastic is to continue to have “cross-border” discussions with Canadian healthcare colleagues in particular, as we discuss some of the differences and some of the commonalities around the challenge of the emerging healthcare in both Canada and the United States.

Of course, whole books have, appropriately, been written about differences between the healthcare systems of the United States and Canada, and at the Health IT Summit, sessions will stay away from broad, sweeping generalizations and the abstract, academic splitting of hairs. Instead, a wide selection of sessions will address such crucial topics as “Transforming Healthcare Outcomes and Delivery with Data & Analytics,” “Improving Quality & Patient Safety with EHRs,” “Securing the 21st Century Data Repository—Best Practices for Solidifying Defensive Measures,” and “Transforming Care Delivery with Telehealth & mHealth.”

What’s fascinating is how the commonalities and differences between the policy and operational landscapes of the two countries’ health systems

As Christina Von Schindler, chief privacy officer of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, noted in an interview with me, she leads a team of specialists who protect the privacy of patient information across a broad swath of a huge, sparsely populated Canadian province. Indeed, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority serves residents of the city of Winnipeg as well as the northern community of Churchill, and the rural municipalities of East and West St. Paul, representing a total population of over 700,000. The Region also provides health-care support and specialty referral services to nearly half a million Manitobans who live beyond these boundaries, as well as residents of northwestern Ontario and Nunavut, who often require the services and expertise available within the Region. And though the vastness of Manitoba’s rural spaces and the fact of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s data security governance over most of a province, are different from what might be the case in the U.S., Von Schindler herself sees similarities. On the one hand, she says, “My role is to write policy and procedure that govern those activities for our 28,000 employees with regards to privacy as well as to provide advisement when needed. And that can be quite complicated for an organization as vast as ours.”

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