Healthcare Leadership Will Transform Canadian Healthcare


Despite the many challenges, executive leadership has the power to transform Canadian Healthcare.

Our system faces serious challenges, particularly when it comes to creating and growing an integrated and patient-centred Canadian healthcare system.

But, to truly transform Canadian healthcare, aligning the needs of local health authorities with the larger systemic priorities, it falls increasingly to quality healthcare leadership. These leaders must have the ability to accommodate the spectrum of organizational, industry, and geographic demands.

For years healthcare leaders have managed amidst fluctuations in labour and funding. But, increasingly, they navigate the adjustments that result from flattening or shrinking organizational and sector structures. At the same time, there is ever more pressure to improve quality and outcomes transparently, with a keen eye on costs and with greater accountability.

Transforming Canadian healthcare amidst increasing obstacles

There are specific factors that influence the quality of Canadian healthcare:

  • An increased need for the delivery of integrated health services to address a growing population of patients with chronic conditions. Reorganizing services in such a way presents complicated leadership, financial, legal, and regulatory challenges.
  • A government tax base that only gets smaller paired with a large ageing population. Inevitably, there will be provider shortages, resulting in the delivery of more services but with ever-limited resources.
  • Advancing technology is beneficial, but certain advancements, such as pharmacogenetics and bioinformatics, impact both the costs and protocols of treatment but also the dynamics of power in the industry.

That said, organizations are making good progress in reorganizing services and developing supportive cultures to provide better patient-centred care. But, the time is now for executive leadership in healthcare to consolidate efforts to develop systems that are genuinely integrated and patient-centred to move into a new phase of national medicare.

A commitment to strengthening the role of healthcare leadership

To transform Canadian healthcare, the role of executive leadership is a strong and highly influential one. There are four factors that help set a course for greater success for healthcare executives in Canada. Healthcare leadership must:

Bring together national strategy and vision with local adaptability

As we all know, it’s the broader contexts – political, economic, technological, and social – that influence the funding, planning, and design of our healthcare system.

Quality healthcare leadership understands that cooperation is key to healthcare transformation. Change occurs when there is harmony between the local levels, where service delivery occurs, and the systemic level, where strategy and planning happen. It begins with a compelling, clear, and consistent vision. Combine vision with a commitment to performance – the valuable metrics to gauge progress and accountability – and you can impact large-scale, systemic change.

It’s at the local level where flexibility and adaptation to changes and the measures of performance where we can see the effects of transformation occur. Performance metrics tailored to the service area enable healthcare leaders to focus on change that is most meaningful to both patients and their care providers. The shift from simply maintaining standards of quality to improving that quality allows leadership the creativity and flexibility to transform care at the local level.

Engage emerging executive leadership competencies

Professional competence at the executive level includes consistency with the Canadian College of Health Service Executives’ competencies. These include:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Lifelong learning,
  • Consumer and community responsiveness
  • Public relations
  • Political awareness in the health environment
  • Conceptual skills
  • Results-oriented management
  • Resources management
  • Compliance with standards, ethics, and laws

There are also newly emerging or avant-garde, competencies that, combined with the others, contribute to the dynamic spirit of transformation. These avant-garde competencies include enhanced global awareness – a willingness to interface both internally and externally with other leaders to be proactive in identifying and addressing systemic and organizational issues across diverse markets and cultures. Acumen in public policy and assessing legislation to prioritize healthcare on the policy agenda. Leaders bringing avant-garde competencies, engage and encourage policymakers and stakeholders with influence to commit to adopting change which enables healthcare leadership to secure the necessary political will to address issues impacting the quality of healthcare.

Leaders must bring the ability to respond quickly and agility in strategy development and implementation. They need to adapt proactively to a rapidly changing, splintered, and turbulent healthcare industry. They must have a shrewd understanding of state-of-the-art communications and information technology. To transform Canadian healthcare, leaders need to harness the power of virtual communications and emerging information technologies such as information systems, electronic records, and biometrics.

A spirit of innovation is key. To draw on all of the executive competencies to develop a system of truly integrated yet virtual and technologically-forward health services. A system that is globalized and policy-driven yet responsive to the ever-changing nature of the sector, always committed to core values.

Tap into expertise to develop executive leadership capacity and accelerate change

The ongoing training and development of executive healthcare leaders help ensure successful systemic transformation. And that means drawing on expertise outside of the organization. Invest time and resources in leadership councils to help expand leadership capacity. Develop and encourage mentoring relationships with either leading healthcare corporations or experts outside of your organization. Investing in initiatives to expand and enhance training and fostering mentoring partnerships between organizations, tapping into valuable external expertise will only accelerate the transformation of our healthcare system.

Foster executive leadership continuity and succession planning

As more baby boomers retire, the supply of executive leadership roles in healthcare will certainly suffer. They’ll also be hard to replace given the advanced educational and experiential requirements necessary to fulfil the job.

But, the fact remains its leadership stability, tenure, and succession planning that will contribute to the most positive change in our system. When you allow healthcare administrators to develop a long and successful career within an organization, it gives them the foundation upon which to ensure ongoing change during their tenure.

Additionally, extensive training and leadership development to ensure successful succession planning at all levels will help support transformation throughout the system. Sustaining quality healthcare leadership requires a thoughtful human resources strategy that monitors the supply, training, and engagement of quality healthcare leadership. Incorporating a plan that includes cultivating more clinician executives and their extensive expertise and experience across disciplines will help solidify the relationship between management and clinical worlds, better facilitating both systemic and local healthcare transformation.

Ours is a system that is fundamental to our Canadian identity. To keep it, the system must adapt to the changing needs of the population it serves. More and more, we need the Canadian healthcare system to offer care that is comprehensive and preventive – the system of care envisioned by its originator, Tommy Douglas.

We have to put the focus on those who will lead that change, those unique leaders who will guide the transformation – a systemic and innovative redesign.  The time is now to ensure a steady and growing capacity offering visionary, expert, and influential healthcare leaders who can facilitate the ongoing and successful transformation of our health system.

At Mirams Becker, we specialize in recruiting and securing senior-level candidates, specifically executive-level recruitments. We are committed to building leadership capacity in the healthcare sector. TALK TO US!