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#PatientsAreWaiting For a Canadian Health Data Ecosystem

#PatientsAreWaiting For a Canadian Health Data Ecosystem

This article was provided by our partners at Roche Canada.

On November 7, 2023, Roche Canada Pharma President & CEO, Brigitte Nolet, joined the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Life Sciences Executive Summit as a panelist. Now, she shares additional thoughts on the importance of a Health Data Ecosystem for Canada, and Canadian patients.

In Canada, patients are waiting – literally! Innovations in healthcare take much longer to reach patients here compared to many other countries. According to OECD rankings, Canada stands at 19 out of 20 countries in terms of the time patients have to wait for access to innovation. It can take up to 732 days for life-saving medications to be accessible to Canadians (source).  In addition to the impact on patients, these long wait times place severe strain on healthcare systems and economy – more visits to practitioners, increased time away from work, heightened anxiety, and higher costs for symptomatic treatment.

A shift to data driven healthcare will be a substantial part of the solution – insights and data can ensure that the right treatments reach the right patient at the right time. This approach not only leads to greater system sustainability and resilience, and efficiency, but also ensures better, more targeted care and an improved patient experience. But no single party can do it alone – Collaboration between the private and public sectors is required. 

Can it be done? 

At the recent Canadian Chamber of Commerce Life Science Executive Summit, I was asked for examples of successful public-private sector collaborations in other countries that could be an inspiration for Canada. One that comes to mind is from my time as General Manager of Roche Belgium & Luxembourg.

Recognizing the opportunity presented by the COVID-19 crisis, Belgium embarked on collaborative efforts to evolve the life science sector. Government, industry, academia, healthcare centers, and the public sector came together, building on a collaborative spirit that had been  nurtured over decades. This approach has yielded remarkable results, strengthening Belgium’s position in biopharma research and development in just a matter of a few years.

There is no reason why Canada couldn’t achieve the same level of success in building a best-in-class, data-enabled health system for Canadians. In fact, there is no reason Canada can’t actually be a leader in this space! We already have all of the building blocks necessary, and are making great strides: Across Canada, multiple initiatives are demonstrating the value of good quality data. Unfortunately, most data sources are siloed, and scaling these initiatives to all Canadians is a challenge. There is a need to build better infrastructure for interoperable health data systems across Canada. We are seeing great commitment from our federal and provincial governments, as strategies like “Working together to improve health care for Canadians” include the adoption of common standards and policies related to data throughout Canada.  This is great progress, but we need to keep moving things forward, with urgency.

Ready to collaborate

The future of our healthcare system depends on making data driven decisions and ensuring that healthcare data is shared, integrated, and used effectively. At Roche, we are committed to challenging and collaborating to innovate healthcare (it’s what we have been doing for over 125 years). We are building up expertise in areas such as AI and real-world data for decision-making, which we are ready to bring to the table for collaboration. We believe that it is not enough for Pharmaceutical companies to deliver breakthrough medical innovation, we must work with all stakeholders across the health ecosystem to ensure innovation actually reaches those who need it. We are actively working to bring the Canadian AI community together to make Canada a global leader in data-driven healthcare, for example through our collaborations with partners like MILA and the Vector Institute. In a recent interview on our Roche website, I shared more thoughts on how AI can help strengthen our healthcare systems.  In a rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to harness the power of data to improve the health and well-being of all Canadians. The future of healthcare in Canada depends on it, and time is of the essence because patients are waiting.

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