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New Innovation Agency urged by Naylor panel

Creation of a new Health Innovation Agency of Canada (HIAC) that would administer a new national health innovation fund to enhance the quality and value of health care in Canada over the next 10 years is the core recommendation from a federal advisory panel on health care innovation chaired by Dr. David Naylor, former president of the University of Toronto.

The panel was created by federal health minister Rona Ambrose last June with the mandate of identifying the five most promising areas of innovation that have the potential to reduce spending while improving quality and access.

The report of the six-member panel which contains 60 recommendations was released without fanfare by Health Canada last Friday afternoon, prompting critics to infer the government was not happy with the report.

“This is a very comprehensive report that takes a 60,000 foot perspective view on the current issues facing Canada’s health care system,” said Canadian Medical Association President Chris Simpson in response to the report’s release.

“We feel many of the recommendations made by the panel are sound and hope the federal government will take action to explore their implementation. We are especially pleased to see the panel adopt verbatim the advice contained in the association’s own submission to the panel concerning a national health innovation fund.”

The panel also singled out the work of Choosing Wisely Canada – the campaign supported by CMA, Canadian physician specialty societies and many provincial and territorial medical associations-- to reduce unnecessary tests and encourage more discussion between physicians and patients.

“The panel salutes this initiative as an innovative physician-led and patient-centred approach that has the potential to shift healthcare away from a culture of consumption to a focus on appropriateness and quality of care,” the document states.

In its recommendations, the panel encourages governments to support the implementation of this initiative in all jurisdictions and to carefully evaluate its impact.

“It is gratifying to see this important panel acknowledge the work being done by Choosing Wisely to engage patients and physicians in conversations about unnecessary and potentially harmful tests and treatments,” said Dr.

Wendy Levinson, who heads the Choosing Wisely initiative in Canada.

Simpson said: “The CMA is also pleased to see the panel urge the federal government to take a more active role in planning the health care system and helping galvanize consensus around structural reforms.”

Recommendations from the panel are organized by five theme areas:

  • patient engagement and empowerment.
  • health systems integration and workforce modernization.
  • digital health and precision medicine.
  • better value from procurement, reimbursement and regulation.
  • industry as an economic driver and catalyst.

As part of its main recommendations, the panel recommends that the new innovation agency would combine the work of the existing Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI); Canada Health Infoway (CHI); and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) and that the innovation fund would be initiated next year and total $1 billion by 2020.

The report also takes aim at the fee-for-service (FFS) payment system for physicians and siloed physician budgets as a barrier to innovation and a cause of “Medicare’s arrested development.”

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