Imagining a healthier future

I’ve worked in public service for a long time, and I’ve noticed that too often our systems are designed around the needs of the people who run them, not the needs of the people who use them. At (HHS), we want to change that. We’re reimagining the way our hospital system is designed, based on the needs of the people we serve. This initiative is called Our Healthy Future, and it’s our biggest planning effort in decades.

We want to create a bold vision for the care we’ll provide over the next 20 years, so we’re looking at all our services and facilities, with everything on the table for discussion. Our planning process began in March 2015 and will wrap up in June 2016. Along the way we’ve asked questions, studied data, analyzed trends and challenged ourselves to imagine a for the communities we serve.

As part of the process, we’ve talked to hundreds of people who use the health system, and to local health and social service organizations serving people at the community level. Now we have arrived at the point where we’re starting to draw conclusions about the kind of hospital system we need to build and how it should integrate into the broader health system.

We see a future where our patients and their families play a larger role in determining the care they will receive. We envision smooth transitions between one type of care and another so that patients and their families don’t feel overwhelmed, confused or frustrated. We see better communication and stronger collaboration with community partners.

We intend to increasingly invest in managing and even preventing illness and disease, especially for the community’s most vulnerable populations. Rather than waiting until people show up at the hospital, we will bolster community-based care and wellness programs that help people avoid the need for hospital care. This population health approach is particularly important in Hamilton, which has among the highest rates of urban hospital use of any city in Ontario.

One strong suggestion we’re hearing from community-based health partners, and from the general public, is to expand our services beyond hospital walls, bringing them closer to the people we serve. We’re imagining a future where we are indeed a hospital without walls, and people can receive much of their health care in convenient community locations.

That said, there will always be patients for whom there’s no substitute for the acute care provided at a hospital. Our regional programs for cancer, cardiac care, stroke, trauma and  burns are good examples of programs we will enhance and grow. We will also maintain and expand the care provided by our McMaster Children’s Hospital. While these services are located in and serve the people of Hamilton, they also serve a much broader region of some 2.3 million people. People travel from as far as Thunder Bay to receive care from HHS.

These changes go hand-in-hand with our role as one of Canada’s pre-eminent research and teaching hospitals. We will continue attracting the most talented healthcare practitioners to our community to continuously improve our care using the best medical science. Our efforts in research and development will also need to extend to innovations in technology because it will be such an important enabler of our vision.

We think we can supercharge our work in technology innovation through collaborations with the private sector – be it local entrepreneurs or technology companies. And by doing so, we intend to make Hamilton Health Sciences an even more important player in helping power a strong local economy as new businesses spring up to sell our innovations to the world.

We’re not done planning yet, but our vision is starting to take shape. It’s a vision inspired by our workforce, our partners and the communities we serve – and central to it is a healthcare system that puts the patient first.