The message that Canada’s health care system is broken keeps coming across in public debates and news headlines. To “fix” the system we need more action, not more words, and we need leaders who can work together to drive the change. Enabling those leaders is the mission of the Health Leadership Academy (HLA), a unique partnership between the DeGroote School of Business and the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.
“We spoke with more than 160 health care leaders from across the country, in one-on-one conversations, and heard an overwhelming sense of frustration,” says Dr. David Price, co-director of the HLA and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster. “We’ve heard that real courage is needed to make this transformation. We don’t need another policy paper. We don’t need a think tank. One of the leaders we spoke to said that what we need, and what the HLA is creating, is an action tank.”
The well-being of the health system, and of the Canadians it serves, depends on significant change. That includes bringing business world learning to health and social care. The solution also involves working with other industries, and working globally, to think about health leadership and impact differently.
The HLA is creating a platform to mobilize and enable Canadian health care with a model of how to move forward. One way that’s happening is through a National Health Fellows Program, set to begin this April. It is focused on C-suite and senior leaders who are seized with implementing systemic improvements.
Over six months, the program will offer three highly-interactive modules. The first, taking place at McMaster, will focus on health system challenges. Participants will be immersed in ways of thinking and doing that are actionable at scale to support needed transformation. The second module will see participants travel to Palo Alto, home to Silicon Valley and Stanford University, to witness how health care disruptors are making change happen.
“We want to take people out of the current system,” says Dr. Price. “While we’re not trying to replicate the U.S. system at all, we want to expose them to some of the interesting innovations happening, especially when you look at examples such as Apple Health, Amazon Clinic, Google Health and Kaiser Permanente.”
The program’s final module, culminating in a Health Forum Dialogue, will take place in Hamilton in September. It will allow participants to share their learnings with health policy leaders from across the country. The objective is to deliver pan-Canadian health care solutions that can be put into action right away.
“The success of our program will be measured in the ways our participants are able to effect change locally, provincially and nationally,” says Dr. Price.
The HLA also includes a Collaborative Health Governance Program (CHG), which addresses the unique responsibilities and challenges confronting today’s health and social service sector boards. The CHG is aimed at individuals currently serving on boards of directors, those who intend to, and those who work closely with boards. Participants gain an understanding of the structural and behavioural aspects of high-performing boards. They also experience the opportunity to co-design new approaches to the emerging needs of collaborative governance across health care organizations.
“There exists the capability to evoke change, but past and current approaches have not come at it in a way that enables it,” says Jodeme Goldhar, part of the leadership team for the Health Leadership Academy.
Canada’s health care system has needed a major overhaul for years, and the pandemic has only highlighted some of the cracks. A 2021 Commonwealth Fund report ranked Canada seventh in administrative efficiency, ninth in access to care and 10th overall out of the health care systems from 11 developed countries (only the U.S. ranked lower).
Ms. Goldhar says progress requires “radical collaboration, which we haven’t seen yet, so we are looking to design change in the relational foundation – bringing the capability within provinces and across Canada together, in ‘the same room,’ to have exponential impact.”
The HLA experience is designed to help leaders grasp evidence, mindsets and actions for shaping a better future. Shifting world views from individualistic to interconnected can help to create breakthroughs and lasting impacts.
At its core, the HLA is about melding the cultures of business and health care to lead to advances in health equity, innovations, and program and service delivery.
“We’re very much a country of health care pilot projects that don’t scale,” says Dr. Michael Hartmann, co-director of the HLA and a professor of Medicine and Management at McMaster. He hopes that will change by having leaders from across Canada come together to talk about what works in their own health care communities.
“Citizens, caregivers and system leaders are in distress,” says Dr. Hartman. “But there’s nowhere for leaders from all aspects of the system to come together, where we listen deeply to each other, challenge conventional wisdoms and practices, and co-create new and sustainable approaches to health care reform. That’s the platform that we’re creating.”
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with DeGroote School of Business. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.