Bridgepoint Health

Bridgepoint’s research inspires the future of healthcare in Scotland

Posted on Thursday July 10, 2014

By Dr. Renée Lyons, Bridgepoint Chair in Complex Chronic Disease, and the TD Scientific Director of the Bridgepoint Collaboratory for Research and Innovation

When Scottish health authorities began imagining what a better healthcare system would look like for patients, they turned to the Bridgepoint Collaboratory for Research and Innovation. I was invited to spend a month in Scotland, to provide advice, expertise and inspiration to help the country lay the groundwork for a research network focused on complex care and care integration. I see huge opportunities to continue collaborating with peers in Scotland! This is what I observed and learned.

Scotland: A small country with big ideas about healthcare reform

Scotland is a small country with big ideas – including a bold plan to reform healthcare. Like all parts of the world, including Canada, Scotland is struggling with how to improve care for people with long-term and multiple health issues, and disability. In poorer areas of Scotland, long-term conditions mostly affect people in mid-life, who often don’t make it to older adulthood.

Instead of small tweaks and minor measures to address this issue, the Government of Scotland is working with all of its regions to completely reorganize services in a way that will support people to live well in the community. They’re working to boldly integrate health and social care, and re-allocate funding based on regional needs and priorities.

Mobilizing patient-driven change

Scotland has many factors in its favour to design and implement bold changes: it’s a small country (about the size of Nova Scotia) with a small population (about 5.3 million people). They have great transportation and IT infrastructure, a single national health system, and a socially minded government. Plus, they’re looking at how to drive change from the community and patient perspective, rather than the system or administrator perspective. They’re serious about listening to patients, caregivers and providers about what needs to be improved to deliver humane, high-quality care.

I spent a month working with universities and government on how they could create a collaborator – like ours at Bridgepoint – that can drive research and evaluation, and innovation. I shared my perspectives on the future of healthcare in both countries in a series of more than 20 meetings, and through eight different talks to groups such the Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and the National Health Service of Scotland.

Keeping our collaboration going

Working so intensely with peers in Scotland definitely strengthened connections that we’ve built over the past five years. We’ve already begun to develop projects in which our researchers include Scotland as a test site, including:

  • Working with Scottish collaborators to develop and test an online application that keeps patients connected with providers. We recently received a CIHI research grant to bring this project to life, and the work is being led by Bridgepoint Collaboratory Post-Doctoral Fellow Dr. Carolyn Steele-Gray. 
  • A book on our mutual learnings about multiple chronic conditions that would involve many patients and providers at Bridgepoint Active Healthcare.

The Bridgepoint Collaboratory was the first of its kind in the world – focused on complexity research – so there are increasing opportunities to welcome other similarly focused institutions that are developing around the world. The medical faculties of University of Edinburgh and the University of Toronto recently signed a new cooperation agreement, which we hope will help us to formalize our ongoing relationships with Scotland, and to better understand complex care and care integration. As always, the rate-limiting step is to find seed funding that supports international collaboration for research and innovation in this important new frontier of healthcare. We welcome your feedback.