Why Healthcare needs a bigger sandbox – and a few leaps of faith

Shirlee M. Sharkey

Shirlee M. Sharkey is the President and CEO of Saint Elizabeth, a Canadian healthcare leader and social innovator. She will be featured on the “Sensitivity Training – Protocol for the Future” panel at the upcoming October 2 Corporate State Toronto summit. Here, Ms. Sharkey shares her thoughts on the challenge and necessity of new approaches in healthcare.

Healthcare in Canada is notoriously slow to change. A 2011 report from the Ivey Centre for Health Innovation and Leadership identifies an “innovation adoption deficit”, noting insufficient uptake of new technologies, innovative processes and procedures within our health and healthcare system. Meanwhile, Canadians are increasingly frustrated that they are not a part of the conversations and changes that need to take place.

As healthcare leaders, we are challenged to think outside of the box and experiment with new approaches, while maintaining or improving client satisfaction, quality, safety and efficiency. The need for creativity has come into sharp focus as the healthcare system grapples with rising demands and limited resources. At the same time, people’s needs, definition and expectations of healthcare are evolving. All of this necessitates that we play in the sandbox, engaging with people, families and each other in a whole new way.

Adopting new models of communication, collaboration and care requires us to manage risks, confront unknowns, establish new competencies and tolerate a level of ambiguity and messiness in the process. Whereas power, knowledge and decision-making were once highly centralized within health professions and institutions, today they are more ubiquitous and must be shared. People of all ages are more informed, more empowered and focused on convenience and accessibility. With the click of a mouse, individuals and family members can research their symptoms or condition, learn about mainstream and alternative treatment options, join a peer support group and even ask a doctor a medical question for free – often much more quickly than they can get face-to-face service or consultation within the formal healthcare system! Furthermore, if people are dissatisfied with their health experience or care, they can post their concerns and feedback on public forums, rating sites and even gain a direct line to the health minister and media via Twitter.

Now more than ever, healthcare organizations must focus on bringing information, services and care to people where they are, when and how they need it. In home and community care, we have an inherent strength in this orientation that comes from seeing and supporting people in their day-to-day lives. However, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels as the game and rules of engagement are constantly changing. We must continue to push ourselves to profoundly understand and honour peoples’ needs, knowledge, abilities and life stories, and then work together to support the best care experience possible.

If we are going to truly transform the health system, we’re not only going to need a bigger sandbox, but more players, new tools and a few leaps of faith.


Categories: Creativity, Innovation


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

2 Comments on “Why Healthcare needs a bigger sandbox – and a few leaps of faith”

  1. May 7, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    Wonderful, what a weblog it is! This webpage gives valuable facts to us, keep it up.


  1. Toronto October Summit Co-Chairs | Bedlam Productions Inc. - August 16, 2012

    […] Read the Featured preview article by “Sensitivity Training” Panelist and Co-Chair Shirle… […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: