organized curiosity

Improving health care through research

What does it take to succeed in health research and innovation?

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By Bill Tholl, President & CEO, HealthCareCAN

Did you know that between 2012 and early 2014 research success stories from Canada’s academic healthcare organizations were featured over 5,600 times in mainstream Canadian print media?

True to form, we are all too modest when it comes to our prowess in health research. Canada is the home of major discoveries from stem cells to insulin; from vaccines to technologies that help the elderly and those with disease and disability. We need to build on this tradition of research excellence, making sure that our research is celebrated and used in the delivery of care.

So what are the winning conditions for advancing health research?  First, we need to agree on what success in health research looks like. What are the desired outcomes from our overall research investments? At HealthCareCAN, the national voice of healthcare organizations, we use the IHI’s “Triple Aim Framework” to define research success in terms of “better health, better care and better value”.

Who is responsible for advancing this vision? According to a survey from the Healthcare in Canada group, Canadians expect government, academic healthcare organizations, and pharmaceutical companies to work together to bring new health innovations into practice.

The Federal Government must ensure that Granting Councils, like the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) have sufficient funding to attract and retain the best talent. Canada currently stands 6th in the world in terms of the total number of influential researchers. In the global race for talent, we need to keep researchers here. Administrators must then ensure that long term health research and development (R&D) budgets aren’t sacrificed at the expense of the short term imperatives of bending the healthcare cost curve.

But achieving results is not just about sustaining the funding for health research.

Decision-makers must step up their efforts to accelerate the use of new knowledge into practice: ‘moving from innovation by accident, to innovation by design’. The Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation  recently announced by the Minister of Health, the Honourable Rona Ambrose and chaired by Dr. David Naylor, is a great example of an effort to do this nationally.

It is also about ensuring that we have the capacity to use the research generated to improve care. This is why academic healthcare organizations are so important. It is in these organizations that the infrastructure is created to bring new research and innovation safely into practice for the first time.

As an example, a few weeks ago, the Federal Government awarded Capital Health in Halifax, $2.9 Million to advance imaging research. The organization had already made a commitment in this area. The additional funding will advance new automated MRI technologies for objective decision making in the clinical diagnosis of several diseases, including brain cancer and prostate cancer.

Are there other examples? Yes. At HealthCareCAN, we look forward to showcasing such successes through an Innovation Sensation database this fall, funded by CIHR.  This will help to celebrate the great Canadian tradition of health research, find and maybe even spread those innovations that can help us achieve better care, better health, and better value – winning conditions for all!

~Bill Tholl, President & CEO, HealthCareCAN

HealthCareCAN is the national voice of healthcare organizations across Canada. They foster informed and continuous, results-oriented discovery and innovation across the continuum of healthcare and act with others to enhance the health of all Canadians; to build the capability for high quality care; and to help ensure value for money in publicly financed, healthcare programs.


One thought on “What does it take to succeed in health research and innovation?

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