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Ottawa creates panel to improve quality and efficiency of health care

Health Minister Rona Ambrose is shown in Ottawa on Feb. 3, 2014.

PATRICK DOYLE/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced on Tuesday the creation of a panel to consider national and international health-care innovations to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of patient care in Canada.

The Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation will consult with provincial and territorial representatives and make recommendations to the federal government about which ideas to support.

Despite doubling health-care spending between 1975 and 2011, "Canada continues to lag behind other industrialized countries on key health systems peformance metrics like access and quality," Ms. Ambrose said. "More money simply, simply is not the solution."

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The goal of the panel is to study possible federal initiatives, and then recommend ideas and approaches that are the most cost-effective.

David Naylor, former president of the University of Toronto and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, has been appointed chair of the panel, which is composed of individuals with expertise in medicine, public policy and business.

"We're interested in taking a practical perspective," Dr. Naylor said. "We are looking for things that can work in real time, for real people. We're looking for concepts that have been tested out elsewhere, have proven their worth, and that we think could well be generalized."

Ms Ambrose cited the Allan Waters Family Simulation Centre – where health care professionals can practice communication and emergency responses in a model operating room with the goal of improving clinical judgment in real-life situations – at the Li Ka Shing Institute in Toronto as an example of how Canadians are already innovating healthcare with a focus on safety and effectiveness.

Dr. Naylor identified two panel members as exemplary Canadian innovators: Dr. Cy Frank, an orthopedic surgeon who focuses on detecting which patients are on a trajectory for joint replacement so they can receive preventive care earlier; and Francine Girard, dean of the faculty of nursing sciences at Université de Montréal and a Canadian leader in competency-based training (which involves measuring the aquirement of skills throughout the training process, as opposed to the time-period based apprenticeship model).

Others experts named to panel include: Chris Power, nurse and president and CEO of Capital Health; Jack Mintz, director of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary; Neil Fraser, co-chair of the Centre for the Advancement of Health Innovations at the Conference Board of Canada; Toby Jenkins, executive fellow at the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary; and Heather Reisman, founder and CEO of Indigo Books & Music Inc.

This is not the first time the federal government has turned to a panel of independent experts for guidance on innovation. In 2010, Ottawa appointed a panel to suggest improvements to innovation in the realm of business research and development. The report from that panel informed Economic Action Plans for 2012 and 2013.

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Two years ago, Canadian Premiers released a report recommending three priority development areas for health-care innovation: clinical practice guidelines, team-based health-care delivery models and health human-resource management initiatives.

The panel will pick up where the Premiers left off, says Bill Tholl, president of HealthCareCAN, which represents hospitals and healthcare networks across the country. "It helps us move from innovation by accident to innovation by design. We have lots of innovation across the country but we haven't yet discovered reliable ways of spreading that innovation."

Dr. Naylor and the panel members have just under a year before they will make recommendations to Ottawa.

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