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Mohamed Alarakhia & Jessica Lemon - eHealth Centre of Excellence

Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your organization?

Dr. Mohamed Alarakhia is a practicing family physician within the KW4 region in addition to being the Chief Executive Officer of the eHealth Centre of Excellence (eCE). Dr. Alarakhia works with the KW4 Ontario Health Team as a Digital Health Co-lead.

Jessica Lemon is an Integrated Care Manager at the eCE and also works within the KW4 OHT as a Digital Health Co-Lead and as an operations member. Jessica uses a digital health lens to lead her work with the OHT and its members.

The eHealth Centre of Excellence is a not-for-profit organization that started in the KW region, but has grown to be a national organization that serves jurisdictions across the country. The eCE is working to enable clinical models to support patients and clinicians to get the services and care they need. By recognizing problems through clinical models they innovate solutions by leveraging digital health where applicable. Dr. Alarakhia acknowledged that digital health is only part of the solution and there are other non-digital solutions to problems within healthcare. The eCE focuses on Primary Care and integrated models of care with OHTs to help them find digital solutions to problems.


What drew you to eHealth Centre of Excellence originally? And how has the organization changed since?

Before working at eCE Jessica shifted from teaching and living abroad to working with the Centre for Family Medicine Family Health Team (CFFM FHT) within the KW4 region in an administrative health role. Her previous experience with CFFM created connections that brought her into the eCE, as the organization was once under the umbrella of CFFM FHT. What drew her in originally was the level of innovation that was happening locally, for not only the clinicians but with the patient in mind. Being with eCE for nine years, Jessica was there at its inception and has been able to see the growth in the people and scope of the work being done. Jessica reflected on how the eCE’s core goals have remained the same, to explore how digital health can improve the clinician and patient experience

Dr. Alarakhia founded the eCE with a colleague formally in 2014, but was working on digital health projects prior. It started during a time when the patient and clinician voice wasn’t as prominent in terms of digital health and its implementation. Without the co-design process, technology was a source of frustration as it got in the way of completing tasks. It was the desire to play a role and leverage the potential of digital health in supporting care that inspired Dr. Alarakhia to be involved in this work and has kept him motivated over the years. He recognized that patients are disadvantaged when clinicians don’t share information about them with others in the patient’s circle of care. Examples of these disadvantages are seen when there are items sitting on fax machines, patients are not able to get into a specialist in time, or they are not able to connect virtually. The organization has grown since 2014 and is working nationally to support key digital health initiatives. The eCE works with many different partners across provinces and the country, including over 30 Ontario Health Teams helping them to look at innovative models of care. The organization also runs co-design workshops with clinicians to help them explore innovative solutions to challenges in the health system and the eCE can assist with change management and adoption to get the solutions on the ground helping patients rapidly benefit from innovation.


What do you like most about the eHealth Centre of Excellence?

Jessica Lemon highlighted the people and culture at eCE for being supportive. She credited the team’s ability to face challenges head-on to what motivates them to do the work. The culture of motivation encourages them to continue working and to find innovative models to support the challenges that they are tasked with solving.

For Dr. Alarakhia, the best thing about eCE is that the work is grounded in what is most important to patients and clinicians. The organization isn’t focused on using technology in a way that can leave people behind, which is a concern for many people. The eCE is focused on the problem and how technology can assist in the solution. Technology can either be in the foreground or in the background when facilitating care. The organization works with clinicians and patients on the frontlines to make sure the solutions work well and are practical. The eCE has engaged with over 10,000 doctors and nurse practitioners in the province and is supporting millions of patients in accessing better care.

Dr. Alarakhia also commented on how the work has made tangible differences, in a system that is difficult to make changes within. Taking a novel approach, the organization has seen great success in reducing wait times within the region. There's been reductions in wait times by 53 days for cataract surgery, 54 days for hips arthritis, and 32 days for MRI access. 95% of patients have stated an improved experience in being able to track their referrals online. Having big ambitions on how things can change has allowed eCE to make a great impact nationally.


Can you tell us what your role is with the OHT?

Dr. Alarakhia was present at the beginning of formation of the KW4 OHT. He was a part of the nominations committee to help form the steering committee at the OHT. Dr. Alarakhia was involved in important discussions about the Vision and Purpose of the OHT. As stated previously, both are involved with the KW4 OHT as a Digital Health Co-lead, and work with others to bring strategy to the OHT on how digital health can enable the work being done. The role also involves people management and relationship building to facilitate collaboration on the work being done with all the members of the OHT. There is an active KW4 Digital Health Reference group that discusses the digital health strategy of the OHT. The KW4 OHT digital health priorities are shared with regional and provincial tables to focus efforts on those issues.


How does your organization align with the values and goals of the OHT?

There is a very strong alignment between the work at eCE and at KW4 OHT. One of the similarities is how Primary Care is foundational to the work at both the eCE and KW4 OHT. As well, making sure clinicians and patients are deeply connected to the work to improve the health system is important to both organizations. Jessica also referred to the focus on the quintuple aim of patient and caregiver experience, patient and population health outcomes, provider work-life experience, value per capita cost of health care, and health equity, when speaking to alignment between the organizations.

The OHT’s vision is to support the whole population so everyone thrives and no one is left behind, which is supported through the eCE’s work. One of the ways the eCE supports this KW4 goal is to increase people’s access to healthcare by freeing up clinicians. Dr. Alarakhia recognized that there are limited amounts of clinicians entering the workforce in the province, so the eCE’s efforts are focused on decreasing the administrative load and potential burnout of clinicians to make their work easier so they can serve the population the best they can. The eCE works with the OHT to help understand population health and the social determinants that influence the work being done by both parties.


What do you hope to see in the near future with your continued partnership with the OHT?

Jessica expressed that with the partnership she hopes to continue to bring members together to collectively tackle challenges as a group. She emphasized the importance of having patient voices and clinician voices at the table as strategic partners to help tackle the problems. Dr. Alarakhia echoed her response, stating he wishes to see patients and clinician lead problem-solving for our OHT. He also expressed the importance of including the social aspect in the work. Dr. Alarakhia hopes that eCE and KW4 OHT can leverage all the work being done and continue to work together to build a better health system and be leaders in the province.


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