Challenges and opportunities: HQT 2018
It is only appropriate that the biggest conference in Canada, and one of the biggest in the world focused exclusively on health quality, should look with blunt honesty at the challenges of providing quality health care in 2018.
It is equally clear from listening and talking to the frontline health care professionals, patients, family members and others who made up the 3,000 delegates attending our Health Quality Transformation conference, that those present are willing to meet these challenges and uphold the six principles upon which quality care should be based - efficiency, timeliness, safety, effectiveness, patient-centredness and equity.
In very different ways – one cerebral, the other, very much from the heart - the two keynote speakers at this year’s gathering provided honest assessments of just how difficult it can be to make changes to health care systems and the tragic cost of failing to do so.
In opening the conference, Dr. Jeffrey Braithwaite, professor and foundational director at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation summarized his widely-cited publications documenting the complexity of health care systems and the difficulties inherent in attempting widespread reform of such systems.
Dr. Braithwaite provided some well-argued observations about how the complexity of health care often leads to applying linear thinking to reach well-intended reforms, but how this approach often fails to have the intended impact. However, his message was ultimately positive as he pointed out that the majority of what is done in health care has the desired outcome and that local change that is made through interconnectedness across professions and sectors – teamwork in the true sense of the word – is the best way to come up with long-lasting solutions that truly improve the quality of care
As closing keynote speaker, Toronto Star reporter Tanya Talaga walked audience members through the tragic history of residential schools in Canada and her story of the deaths of seven indigenous students in Thunder Bay.
Talaga demonstrated how Canada continues to fail its Indigenous Peoples in addressing the social determinants of health in the isolated communities of Northern Ontario, leading to situations such as the ones featured in her book Seven Fallen Feathers. Yet despite the anger and sadness in her presentation, Talaga ended her presentation with an expression of hope for the future. She noted that, unlike in the past, Canadian children are now learning about residential schools and their legacy.
“Keep learning and keep reaching out your hands because that is the only way we are going to make this country work,” she concluded.
In addition to bringing inspirational speakers such as Dr. Braithwaite and Talaga to address Health Quality Transformation, the conference also positively demonstrated the scope and spread of health quality in the province. For scope, one need only look at the continual expansion of patient involvement in the planning and delivering on conference programming, as well as the ability to address new and emerging trends in health care such as artificial intelligence.
As for spread, the conference was held for the first time in five Ontario communities – Toronto, London, Ottawa, Sudbury and Thunder Bay. While demonstrating the ability of the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) to link these centres digitally and to another 50+ OTN sites, this format also showed how those in multiple centres could feed into each other and into a common social media stream (#HCT2018) and share perspectives on the presentations.
Health Quality Transformation – a conference of many, many moving parts but one that is willing to address challenges and suggest solutions. As the theme of this year’s conference stated so resolutely – Quality Matters.