VHA and ETHP Partners share insights about the future of digital integration and Ontario Health Teams

Last week on October 28th and 29th, the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) hosted its annual Community Connect conference virtually. The event featured presentations from industry experts centred around integrated care and Ontario Health Teams (OHTs). 

OCSA Panelists

VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) Chief Information Officer Alistair Forsyth was invited to take part in a panel discussion called Virtual Care: Meeting expectations for OHTs. WoodGreen Community Service’s Mehran Mehrdadi, Vice President of Administration & Information Systems and Amelia Hoyt, CIO of Michael Garron Hospital, Toronto East Health Network (MGH) also joined the discussion to share their insights about virtual care in the East Toronto Health Partners OHT.

“In the context of our OHT, our objective is to care for the whole person, and we take joint accountability for that. In order to jointly care for a person, it’s going to be extremely important that we’re be able to liberate and share the data that lives in different systems to improve quality and build capacity within the OHT,” Alistair commented.

The panel was moderated by Alvin Cheng of Ontario Health. He posed questions about the expectations of digital interoperability, how to successfully prepare to meet the technological requirements of OHTs and how to best meet clients’ increasing expectations. Each panelist shared unique perspectives about shared goals as an OHT.

“WoodGreen, for example, operates in many different sectors which adds to the complexity of data and moving between sectors like employment to health. We need to understand that data ownership and sharing as well as cyber security are at the foundation of creating seamless systems,” said Mehran.

VHA, WoodGreen and MGH are all anchor partners of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), a network of healthcare and social services organizations that are working together to create an integrated system of care in East Toronto. ETHP was launched in 2017 and was named as one of the first OHTs in December 2019. 

“I think that the ETHP OHT is actually a testament to how getting together to talk about where the gaps and challenges are can affect real change,” said Amelia.

“We see challenges with organizations at different levels of IT maturity, hence different levels of access and although we’re just looking at our own OHT right now, we are all facing the same challenges across the province,” she added.

Alistair shared several ways VHA is using its own platform to improve patient outcomes with respect to technology, such as collaborating to offer smartphones to MGH patients currently residing at an offsite hospital wing in the wake of COVID-19, as well as a new virtual care volunteer program at VHA that connects volunteers with providers and clients to offer virtual care tech support prior to an initial virtual visits.

“The thing that ties all of us together is the patient,” remarked Alvin.

“I think we have to be cognizant that we’re going to live in an ecosystem that’s going to consist of different applications and we need to work towards ensuring that they can interoperate,” said Alistair.

“From the client perspective, it’s so important to not have to repeat your story.”