A Task Force on Innovation

June 24, 2021 | By


For many Albertans, the very mention of the term “innovation” within the healthcare system is a cause for concern because it could suggest the possibility of a role for the private sector in our beloved public healthcare system. But the reality is that healthcare is one of the most dynamic sectors of all for innovation, and the private sector is very much involved in some of the world’s most efficient healthcare systems, from Sweden and Norway to Germany and the United Kingdom. Alberta should take note.

Providers at the front line in our healthcare system face daily complex health challenges and know the inefficiencies, hurdles, and barriers like no others. This task force would be comprised of such health care specialists, working together with patients, community leaders, academics, and healthcare and technology entrepreneurs. The group would be tasked with enabling innovation in the healthcare system. The potential synergy between the front-line ‘know-how’, first-hand experience of the system as a user, and the entrepreneurial skill in product development, machine learning, and other technologies could enable the development of novel solutions to benefit Alberta’s healthcare system and also create new business opportunities.

The task force might even be accompanied by an Innovation Fund that allows for experiments and prototypes of new models, partnerships or technologies to be developed outside of regular budget cycles. This could help the task force to test some of its ideas and inquiries in a lower-risk context that doesn’t put the whole system in play for the sake of the learning. It could also create opportunities for innovation in business models so that some of the revenues generated from scalable innovations could be reinvested in the healthcare system.

Health care is a complex and often controversial topic. Meanwhile, the cost of caring for an aging population continues to grow. If we’re going to provide the kind of high-quality healthcare that Albertans expect, and do it without crowding out other public spending priorities, we need to explore options to innovate and change the status quo. A task force on innovation could challenge us to think more creatively about what’s possible without sacrificing what we value so highly.