Canadian Healthcare Lacks Culture of Innovation

  • Nov 11th, 2018
  • Sanj Singh and Guy Paterson

Canadian Healthcare Lacks Culture of Innovation

For the past 18 year a dedicated group of Saskatoon Business Leaders have been advocating its stated goals ‘to educate and promote opportunities for business services, education, research, commercialization, and the development of health services. The committee also focuses on the business of health – invest, translate, and transform lives through innovation in health.’

Previous with the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce and now hosted by the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, this group continues it work promote an atmosphere of collaboration and innovation between the health provider organizations and the vibrant health research, academic, and business communities. 

Starting in the early 2000’s, this group of health visionaries and advocates have worked and lobbied for innovation driven change by educating and promoting opportunities for business services, education,  research, commercialization and development in health services, and explain the role of the health industry in creating economic prosperity in the  Province of Saskatchewan.  The concept of the Office of Health Innovation, a core initiative of our group, is supported by volunteer members of the business, health services, research and academia communities, with an objective of promoting the innovation, adoption and business opportunities in the global health sector.

A recent post by the Canadian Medical Association Journal News (cmajNews) titled “Canada healthcare lacks culture of innovation” highlights the frustration felt by innovators and entrepreneurs in the health business sector in providing answers to health transformation issues.  The Mission of our group to “Create the ecosystem, networks and alliances which support individuals and organizations seeking to conceive, test, develop and market innovative products, services and solutions for the health market.” fully resonate with opinions and issues outlined in this article.

The essence of the post is; “Silos in Canadian health care impede the spread of innovative ideas.”  The panel discussion quoted highlights that there is no healthcare system in Canada where good ideas can be shared and widely adopted – a barrier to adopting and scaling health innovation.  It is a collection of silos including ‘mega-silos’ – the health systems in the provinces and territories and multiple smaller silos within each province, “none cooperating with each other and continually feuding with the federal government”.  “It is a well-known phenomenon in industry that organizations that have no innovation culture cannot easily adapt to innovation critical to their success if it is developed elsewhere.”

The panelist stated that: ‘many health care leaders in Canada appear to suffer from “not-invented-here syndrome …and are not aware of other innovations or are not willing to adopt those innovations in their local systems’.

Core and fundamental areas that contribute to this problem include:

  • How provinces pay physicians, mostly fee-for-service, provides little incentive to adopt innovative ideas to find efficiencies and improve health care quality;
  • Lack of competition is major driver of innovation in all sectors of human endeavor. Canada is one of the few developed economies without two systems of healthcare.
  • There is also too much time spent attempting to innovate in the wrong areas.  Implementing health care models, and service delivery or high-tech medical products won’t amount to much unless there is innovation in the “business model” of health care first, including incentives to innovate.
  • There is little point in conducting a project to prove an innovative idea if there is no infrastructure to allow the successful ones to become a ‘resounding success’, pilot projects should be designed to spread where successful.

We believe the ongoing initiatives of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce and the Office of Health Innovation can be a major part of the solution.



Sanj Singh and Guy Paterson The authors are OHI Lead and Committee Co-Chair of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce - Office of Health Innovation initiative.

Add A Comments