August 1, 2023

Reimagining health care in Alberta: Shifting focus from emergency to preventative 

By Dr. Breanne Everett, CEO & Co-Founder , Orpyx Medical Technologies

Alberta’s health-care system heavily prioritizes acute and reactive interventions. On one hand, this means that if you experience a catastrophic trauma, a severe car accident, or a cardiac arrest or stroke, the care you receive in Alberta will be among the finest in the world.

However, this approach also presents challenges. Alberta doesn’t do as good a job in supporting the full range of health needs individuals have. And this ultimately hinders the improvement of health outcomes and the extension of the number of years spent in good health.

Listen to Dr. Breanne Everett, CEO & Co-Founder , Orpyx Medical Technologies, on AlbertaBETTER

To achieve better health outcomes, a fundamental shift is necessary—one that continues to deliver exceptional emergency care while simultaneously ensuring there is a comprehensive approach to individuals’ health journeys. This means expanding primary and preventative care.

We need to shift our focus and resources towards less expensive, innovative preventive care. In doing so, we can provide more effective and efficient care to Albertans, which will improve outcomes and alleviate strain on acute resources such as emergency rooms.

At the same time, we must ensure that all Albertans have access to quality health care. In our pursuit of improvement, we must recognize where we have failed to deliver even a baseline of appropriate care to folks. Remote centres, marginalized populations, and Indigenous communities face significant obstacles accessing health care, grappling with limited access to essential resources. Many also do not have access to sufficient food, shelter, clothing, or other elements that significantly impact overall health. These are known as the social determinants of health.

A comprehensive approach to health care, thus, not only requires a shift to preventative care but must also consider the broader social and environmental factors that shape health outcomes.

Fortunately, Albertans are not afraid to reimagine whole sectors of the economy. In the 1970s, Alberta transformed its oil and gas sector when the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA) developed groundbreaking oilsands technology that unleashed opportunity in the energy sector.

Similarly, if we can harness that same entrepreneurialism, innovation, perseverance, and risk-taking mindset, we have the potential to reimagine a truly world-class health-care system for our province. Not only would this drive improved health outcomes for Albertans, but it would also create a stronger economy with expansion and export opportunities for our health research and health technology sectors.

Reimagining health care in Alberta starts with the following four strategies:

First, it is crucial to introduce alternative funding and governance structures to promote and support team-based care. Team-based care involves a diverse and collaborative group of health-care providers with specialized skills, making them effective in addressing the diverse needs of patients. This approach also better supports individuals dealing with the social determinants of health.

Second, urgent measures must be taken to address the recruitment and retention challenges faced by primary-care providers in Alberta, particularly those in rural and remote regions. Competitive compensation packages and supportive team environments are crucial to talent attraction. Beyond that, we must expand Alberta’s capacity for training, assessment, and certification to enhance and solidify future capacity.

Third, to optimize the outcomes of team-based care, it is imperative to integrate remote care. Remote-care technologies, such as telemedicine and digital health platforms, can overcome barriers to health-care access in remote and underserved areas, and it can facilitate collaboration among health-care providers.

Finally, it is crucial to establish an innovation pipeline and foster a culture of innovation. Currently, the province lacks clear mechanisms and processes for integrating and utilizing new health and digital technologies. As such, Alberta health technology companies face challenges when trying to bring their innovations to market, and many choose to launch outside the province. The province must establish transparent and accessible pathways for innovation adoption, but beyond this, a culture of innovation must be ingrained at the core of all our health institutions.

With these four strategies, we can transform health care in Alberta. We have all the pieces needed to build a world-class, inclusive, and proactive health-care system. Now, our focus must be on assembling these pieces in the correct order, aligning them to help Albertans live healthier lives.

Dr. Breanne Everett is the co-founder and CEO of Orpyx Technologies and a contributor to the Business Council of Alberta. This column is part of a discussion paper series by the business council called Missions and Moonshots, which explores how Alberta can reach its full potential in three key areas of the economy: food, health and energy.

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