The ICIC 2019 conference in Donostia-San Sebastian was a wonderful opportunity for Canadians to learn who in Canada is working to better understand, improve and advance integrated care. This year’s conference was attended by the largest number of Canadian delegates to date with more than 40 participants, many of whom gathered for an early breakfast on the final day of the conference hosted by the Health Standards Organization. Everyone was highly engaged and involved throughout the conference: Canadian contributions included a keynote talk by Dr. Henry Mintzberg, 22 oral presentations, 12 poster presentations, 11 session chairs and 6 workshops involving 19 presenters (clearly some people had multiple contributions). Dr. Jacobi Elliott was awarded Best Poster of the Conference (having already won the Best Poster award in 2016 in Barcelona and Runner-Up Poster in 2014 in Sydney). More than that though, the Early Researchers in Integrated Care is an international group led by Mudi Kadu, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, and three other Special Interest Groups are facilitated or co-facilitated by Canadians including Digital Health Enabling Integrated Care, Volunteers and Voluntary Sector, and Advanced Education in Integrated Care. Canada is clearly on the map of integrated care. All the more reason for Canada to host the first North American Conference on Integrated Care in October 2020 (#NACIC2020).
There are real benefits to Canada’s participation in the International Foundation for Integrated Care and to gather with the world at its international conferences. The first is to have the opportunity to learn about the latest innovations in integrated care from national policies to emerging financial models to regional systems and local innovations and partnerships between patients and providers. Learning what has worked and what has not worked or how challenges to implementing integrated care have been addressed is an opportunity that only comes from learning about diverse experiences. Although international health systems have differences, the value of integrating care is generally built on the same platform of improving outcomes for individuals with complex health needs who require care across multiple settings and providers, and the approaches have remarkable similarities too. Showcasing Canadian examples is also an important way to attract feedback, input and suggestions from others who have much experience and knowledge in integrated care systems. While we have relatively few examples in Canada of integrated care models as compared with European or some other international contexts, we are catching up quickly and integrating care is increasingly a health system priority in Canada. It was wonderful to see so many Canadian colleagues at #ICIC19 and we look forward to staying connected through #IFICcanada.
Dr. Walter P Wodchis is a Professor at the Institute of Health Policy Management & Evaluation, University of Toronto and Research Chair in Implementation and Evaluation Science , Institute for Better Health, Trillium Health Partners. His main research interests are health economics and financing, and health care policy evaluation. He leads a number of research programs focused on care for complex populations across multiple health care sectors.