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CMA Health Summit Spotlight: Zayna Khayat

After a year in the Netherlands, working as “Innovation Sherpa in Chief” at the REShape Health Innovation Centre, Zayna Khayat returned to Canada in January with a fresh perspective on what that future could look like.

“I can’t unsee what I have seen.” explains Khayat.

What she saw was a country with about the same population as Ontario, with a system-wide goal of bringing health care into the modern age.

Yet in the Netherlands, the government approached this challenge by setting 3 huge goals, to be met by 2019; 100% of frail seniors or people with a chronic disease must have full digital access to all their health data, they must be able to contact any health professional, in any modality they want (text, video, in-person), and they must be able to have their symptoms monitored remotely (blood pressure, heart rate, lung capacity).

“Here, we would rarely set big goals like those, with hard targets and a firm data,” laughs Khayat. “And they would centrally plan to the nth decimal place the execution, instead of letting the plans emerge more bottom up.”

Khayat believes this “command and control” model of healing the system is one of things holding back health innovation in Canada.

“If you think you are going to predict everything that is going to happen [with a program], and fund a tight business case, that thing is dead as soon as you write the business plan.”

With her insights from the Netherlands and her experience experimenting in the future of health and care, Khayat will be bringing some bold ideas about how to future-proof Canadian healthcare to the CMA Health Summit in August.

As part of a panel discussion on what is holding us back from embracing innovation and technology in health, Khayat says big changes are coming to health care, whether we are ready for them or not.

“The future of health will be predictive/proactive, personalized, decentralized, continuous, people-powered, and value-based.”

This “future of health” presentation is one she gives often, explaining a world where data will be able to predict exactly which people will need health care – and when – and providing an intervention well before they even start showing symptoms.

When people do get sick, that same data will allow a precise, personalized diagnosis and individualized treatment. Patients will be partners in their health decision-making, and much of the care provided by health systems will move out of institutions and into home, communities and phones.

The catch? Khayat says we need to re-base current business models to accommodate this future.

“Today, we have a sick care, reactive model. We respond when something goes wrong,” explains Khayat. “But when you place currency on the predictive value of data, and you actually start rewarding people for finding and thwarting risk, think of all the value pools that shift in paradigm. You are buying health, instead of paying for sickness treatment.”

During her time leading the MaRS Health System Innovation platform, and during this past year in the Netherlands, Khayat has grappled with the challenges of what needs to be in place to help health systems and institutions adapt to innovation. But what excites her these days is how innovation can bring health to people in their homes.

In her new role as the future strategist at Saint Elizabeth Health care, a health enterprise with a focus on home care, Khayat is helping re-invent what home care looks like, the technology it uses, and how it is funded.

“It is a bit of back to basics because health care started in house visits, but then we complicated everything and moved it into institutions, and today, it is all going back. Home and people is the future.”