Leadership Focusing on Transformation

By Michelle Helliwell, Library and Knowledge Management Services, Shared Service

The National Health Leadership Conference met in Halifax in June, amidst coolish, rather April-like weather. Over 700 participants gathered, and the theme running through the conference was clear: transformation. We all know that healthcare in Canada is on some tricky footing right now, and that change is needed. But what kind?

The keynote speaker on Day 1 was Maureen Bisognano, president of IHI. She was not far into her talk when she started talking about healthcare dollars: 75% of all the healthcare spending in the US – some 2.7 Trillion dollars (yes, that’s not a typo) – is spend on Chronic Disease Management. With obesity rates growing, she added, all the “metrics are going the wrong way.” She also focused on what needed to change: We need to stop asking patients “what’s the matter” and start asking “what matters to you.” A simple change that has the capacity to change the dynamic. What if your doctor asked you what mattered to you, and you said you’ve been searching for a job for the past 3 months with no luck and it’s stressing you out? To me that’s quite a different conversation than, “I’m here for stress.” We heard a remarkable story about a 95-year old woman who declined rapidly after her husband passed away. Now in nearly 24-hour care, her nurse asked the lady what she could do to help her. The lady said simply, ‘I want a dog.’ The nurse, after two weeks of re-asking the question, and getting the same answer, relented and on a whim, brought the woman a dog. In a matter of weeks, the woman no longer needed 24-hour care. She had someone she had to care for, and who cared for her. Now, Ms. Bisognano reports, the woman is living independently and going to a senior’s home 3 times a week to play her violin for the residents.

She brings her dog. :)

Sometimes I can’t help but thing that innovation isn’t rocket science. Sometimes, it’s about asking the right questions.

Discussion about population health approaches – determinants of health, person-centredness, health inequity, partnerships, collaboration—were laced through all of the presentations I had the opportunity to participate in. But when it came to give our presentation, I was nervous. Would anyone come? What would be their reaction?

I am pleased to say we had nearly a full room – nearly 60 participants. Our workshops are interactive – we don’t have all the answers, after all. So people in the room needed to speak with each other, to flesh out issues, to suggest solutions—with each other. It was a quite room at first, but once they had a little encouragement, they were off and running, and the feedback was largely positive. If you were there, I hope you enjoyed it and had the opportunity to share the film and your ideas when you got back home.

It was an enriching experience, and a great opportunity that comes around only once every few years, so I’d like to thank the program committee for accepting our abstract and giving us such a generous amount of time to do it. And many thanks to the participants who made our session a success!

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