Print Page


Innovation in Health Care the Best Way to Make System Sustainable

Gabriela Prada, Director, Health, Innovation, Policy and Evaluation
May 25, 2010

Canada’s health systems may be approaching a tipping point—the point at which they inevitably fail. Health care is consuming an increasing proportion of our national income and the health of Canadians is not as good as it should be. The recent Ontario and Quebec budgets show that governments are trying to bring their deficits under control by limiting growth in health-care costs, which have risen sharply in recent years.

A more sustainable path for the health system, however, focuses on innovation to reduce the growth rate of costs, while increasing productivity and improving health outcomes.

In The Health Enterprise: Charting a Path for Health Innovation, The Conference Board of Canada calls for the creation of a comprehensive, national health innovation policy for Canada that could successfully balance our health and economic needs. The report proposes a Health Innovation Framework for Action to bring together four key players into a “health enterprise”:

  • health education and research institutions, including universities and research hospitals;
  • health and life sciences companies, including firms in industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, and medical informatics;
  • health and health-care organizations and professionals; and
  • government departments, including those that handle finance, health, and innovation portfolios.

There is enough capacity in Canada’s proposed health enterprise to solve some of our health-care challenges.

Such a health enterprise model creates collaborative opportunities to reshape our health-care and innovation systems to meet current patient needs and future demand from an aging population, and to accelerate the discovery and commercialization of health-related products.

There is enough capacity in Canada’s proposed health enterprise to solve some of our health-care challenges. More than a million people work in health occupations. Annually, Canadians, and their governments, spend about $183 billion on health care. Furthermore, Canada spends about $6 billion and is a world leader in health research. Investment in this area has a track record of return that other industries would covet. For example, a recent study in the United Kingdom found that public investment in cardiovascular research in the U.K. yielded a return of 39 per cent.

Aligning the incentives of the key players within the health enterprise could improve population health, increase the efficiency and safety of the health-care system, and significantly contribute to building a stronger knowledge-based economy in Canada.

The report is published by the Centre for the Advancement of Health Innovations (CAHI), which is a joint initiative of The Conference Board of Canada and the Canadian Health Industries Partnership (CHIP).

CAHI—which has the support of governments, academia, industry, and health-care organizations—aims to identify strategies and options to develop a supportive policy, legislative, and regulatory environment that will advance Canada’s health innovation system. CHIP is a voluntary collaboration among the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, and the leaders of Canada’s industrial health innovation sector.

The chair of CHIP’s board, Mark Lievonen, is also a co-chair of CAHI. Mr. Lievonen is president of Sanofi Pasteur, a vaccine company that received the 2009 Ontario Premier’s Catalyst Award for Company with the Best Innovation.

Gabriela Prada
Health, Innovation, Policy and Evaluation
The Health Enterprise: Charting a Path for Health Innovation

Executive Network
Centre for the Advancement of Health Innovation

Related Publications
Exploring Technological Innovation in Health Systems

Related Executive Networks
Centre for Health System Design and Management
Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management
Innovation Council