This is my first column for the Huffington Post Canada and so it's only appropriate that I begin with a confession.
About six years ago I did something that most people would consider crazy: I quit a high-powered, high-paying job that I loved. I was the chairman and CEO of Worldsource Wealth Management, responsible for four companies nationally, with three reporting presidents and about 1,200 employees/advisors.
I didn't do it because I was bored and wanted to find myself. This was not Eat, Pray, Love. I did it because I had an epiphany about our health care system. It was an epiphany that came at a time of profound sadness -- while sitting in a Toronto hospital watching my father die.
For three days, I sat at my dad's bedside waiting for him to draw his last breath. And while I did, I realized that our health care system -- a pillar of Canadian life -- was crumbling and badly in need of a fix.
My 71-year-old father had been admitted to hospital with advanced lung cancer and was meant to be taken to palliative care. But instead of consulting one single medical record, staff gave him a blood transfusion he didn't need and tried to send him home.
To be perfectly clear, the hospital's error did not contribute to his ultimate death. His cancer was at a point where it was only a matter of time. But what I witnessed through our health care journey convinced me that his was not an isolated case. What I saw was, in fact, a systemic problem.
I decided that, in order to positively transform the status quo for patients in the health care system, I was going to have to disrupt my own comfort zone to do so. I quit my job and the successful career I had in the investment management industry and began researching Canada's health care system. I became president of Best Doctors Canada, a medical advocacy service that offers patients access to second opinions from some of the foremost, peer-nominated medical experts in the world.
As a business person, my first step was understanding what patients needed and creating a passionately customer-centred model to deliver on those needs; helping people to be certain and empowering them to become true partners with their treating teams. To do that, I made collecting and digitizing our members' medical records the highest priority. Once they were electronic, we could use our database of 50,000 global experts in more than 450 specialties and subspecialties to confirm a diagnosis or recommend a different treatment.
Today this employer-paid service changes diagnoses in 22 per cent of cases and recommends modifications to treatment plans in more than 60 per cent.
But what's particularly gratifying to me is that we have managed to provide 5,000,000 Canadians with a service that puts them at the centre, gathers their complete personalized medical records should they become stricken with disease, and connects both the member and their treating team to world-renowned expertise to improve outcomes.
The Government of Ontario's struggles to introduce electronic medical records have been well publicized and I don't intend to pile on. Suffice it to say: it is just a symptom of a greater problem with our health care system. What is encouraging is that there is now more talk about patient-centred models, and that will help drive transformation.
I firmly believe that first-class care should be available to all Canadians regardless of their ability to pay. I also believe in choice. But the system has to be sustainable, and ours currently is not. Estimates are that by 2030 health care will consume over 80 per cent of the Ontario's budget, leaving less than 20 per cent for everything else the government need to provide.
Leaders with business experience can help. Strategic business thinking, properly applied, will see patients benefit. I know there are many other business leaders like me who want to collaborate with governments and health care leaders - so that together we can find and implement ways to make the system more innovative, sustainable and quality-improved.
It's time to disrupt the status quo. To realize that our comfort zone with respect to health care is just an illusion. We have a tsunami fast approaching and it is time to shore up. Or risk losing the one thing dearest of all to Canadians.
This is my passion and so I will devote much of my time to the future of Canadian health care, exploring new ideas and participating in an important conversation that concerns us all.
I look forward to hearing from you along the way.
Follow Dianne Carmichael on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dianncarmichael