Get Ready for a Paradigm Shift in Health Services and Policy Research

  • Dec 12th, 2016
  • Guy Paterson

A Perfect Storm: Get Ready for a Paradigm Shift in Health Services and Policy Research

Excerpt from originally published  Open Letters Column October 2016  -

by Robyn Tamblyn
There are major forces, worldwide, that are shifting the way in which health systems will operate, how health services will be delivered, and the role that health services and policy research will play in this emerging frontier.

  • First, there is the crushing, and unsustainable escalation in health system costs.  
  • Second, the greying of the baby boom generation will create a very different kind of consumer of healthcare services. 
  • Third, we are finally tipping point on the innovation adoption curve for incorporating health information technologies in healthcare. Widespread digitization of health services, coupled with an explosion in consumer-oriented wearable devices, point-of-care diagnostics, and social media has created the opportunity to deliver services in a very different way—e-consults, tele-homecare, self-care robots, smart homes are all leveraging advances in technology re-purposed to fill needed gaps in providing more accessible, equitable consumer-oriented services. 
  • Fourth, and perhaps the most powerful trend is the emergence and power of “big data.” With the use of digitalized solutions in health, social, and consumer services, we have a daily flood of trillions of bits of structured data that can be used to provide real-time measurement of quality, assess the risk and benefit of new technologies and process innovations, personalize health interventions to incorporate preferences, values, lifestyle and genomics, detect emerging epidemics.

One of the early wins of the “big data revolution” is that it accelerates the data infrastructure needed to shift from paying for “services” to paying for “value and outcomes” in healthcare.  There is nothing more deadly to an agenda of transformation and innovation than being paid no matter what the quality, outcome or experience with the service.  But imagine if a substantial part of the budget for delivering care was a bonus for better outcomes and patient experience, at the same or lower cost. Imagine consumers googling which health delivery organizations achieve the best outcomes for persons with dementia and their caregivers, and that their choices would factor into increments or reductions in annual budgets for providers and delivery organizations. Imagine incentivizing providers and delivery organizations to push the envelope, creating innovative frugal solutions that would improve the way we run the business of healthcare. We have a precious and vastly under-used resource in healthcare—a highly trained health professional workforce involved in day-to-day delivery, and highly motivated consumers who are eager to have a say in making the system better.

Research will play a central role in a system that measures and rewards value. There will be a big pull for basic descriptive and predictive intelligence—how are we doing, who is doing better and why, and what is predicting our successes and failures.


Guy Paterson Co-Chair - Health Opportunities - Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce

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