Change is a constant in Ontario's health system. And while, historically, that change has been incremental, the pace of change has been speeding in recent years.
Here are 6 trends you need to know about to stay on top of what health care transformation looks like today:
1. Outcomes Over Outputs
After years of funding based on outputs, funders have seen that more service doesn’t necessarily mean better health. Now, better data is ushering in an evidence-based approach to improving both health and healthcare.
The result is a growing focus on outcomes in healthcare spending decisions.
The shift is evident across the system. In primary care, for example, there’s a move from fee-for-service models to models that prioritize comprehensive, interdisciplinary care over service volumes.
2. Containing Costs Through Collaboration
While demand for healthcare is growing, spending has been constrained. Years without base increases have left providers struggling to find efficiencies while meeting the growing demand for services . Still, this is a trend that’s here to stay.
Luckily, creativity in our sectors is running high. Together, government, LHINs (Local Health Integration Networks), and providers have made significant changes in how services are organized and delivered, fostering more sharing of resources, partnering, and team-based approaches.
There’s also a growing recognition that investing in strong, well-coordinated primary and community care, mental health and prevention is more effective in the long run. That’s good news for all of us.
3. Moving Health Care into Communities
Another key trend that’s driving healthcare in Ontario right now is shifting care away from traditional settings, like hospitals, into communities and homes.
Hospitals remain crucial, as does the quality of the care they provide. There’s a greater focus, however, on strengthening care outside of hospitals, including home, community, primary care and long-term care.
That’s great news for our sectors. And it’s an exciting opportunity for community, primary care and hospitals to collaborate on creating interconnected systems of care that deliver better value and better outcomes.
4. Data and Digital Health
Data-driven decision making and digital health are hallmarks of high-performing systems. However, Ontario’s progress in this area has been uneven.
Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and digital health have been adopted across sectors, and LHINs have driven important initiatives to link up data between sectors, unlocking information to better understand needs of populations and health services at a very local level.
But Ontario lags on the portability of records and in engaging clients and patients in using digital health and health technologies. And we still don’t have the ability to share patient records seamlessly and consistently between sectors and providers – or with clients themselves – making it hard to manage care across the system.
Collaboration, creativity, and the ability to do things differently will be key to our future success when it comes to data and digital health.
5. Population Health Management
Population health management is about improving the health status of an entire population and reducing inequities in access and outcomes for different groups within it.
It’s a trend that represents a great opportunity for community health and primary care. It’s totally aligned with the underlying philosophy of our sectors – the belief that upstream investment in preventative and support services can benefit population health overall.
Still, it can be hard to get traction – and dollars – into preventative health care and community health care, let alone the social determinants of health. Data is key to demonstrating that investing in these things produces better overall health outcomes. Fortunately, improved data across the system is already moving us in that direction. Prioritize rich data that shows cause and effect.
The final key trend in Ontario health care is one that is top of mind for all providers – integration.
No one part of the system can provide everything people need, so every health system has to address integration. Integrated service delivery is about creating seamless pathways that move individuals or groups through the health care services they need.
Integration is a means, not an end. It’s one strategy being used in Ontario to pursue better quality, seamless patient experiences, and a more cost-effective system. And it can encompass a range of approaches, from full-scale mergers to back-end integrations, one-time arrangements, partnerships, and resource-sharing.
Want to learn more about integration and other key trends in Ontario’s health system? Check out our LeaderShift webinars for Health System Leaders.