When we last sat down with Brigitte Nolet, she was preparing to leave Belgium and make her way back home to Canada where she would take on the role of President and CEO, Roche Pharma Canada.
During that first conversation, Brigitte shared her initial thoughts on areas where Canada could prioritize its healthcare efforts for maximum impact. The areas identified include: health data, artificial intelligence in healthcare delivery, public-private partnerships, and access to innovation. Since that time, the topic of Canada’s ailing healthcare systems has been front and center in the media - particularly in Ontario, which is home to our Mississauga-based Pharmaceuticals Division -
so we asked Brigitte if we could delve deeper into each of these topics. First up: the role of health data in evolving our healthcare systems.
Q: The pandemic highlighted the need for access to high quality, real time data at a population level, to ensure timely, informed decision making. What must Canada do now to ensure these learnings are carried forward and applied in a standardized way?
A: The pandemic highlighted that we can in fact, make timely and informed decisions if we leverage real time data. We all saw this come to life when vaccines were developed and approved in timelines we never thought were possible. The next critical step is to create a clear pathway to foster sharing, integration and use of standardized health data that can be applied beyond COVID-19. Regardless of disease, all patients deserve rapid diagnosis and a quick path to treatment - a cancer patient, a multiple sclerosis patient, an influenza patient - they all deserve the same timely diagnosis and treatment as what we did in response to COVID-19.
Q: As part of a global organization, and given your most recent experience in Europe - including the last three years in Belgium - is there a market that you feel is embracing and adopting health data to create real change?
The Belgian experience parallels Canada’s in many ways. Canada is now poised to not only put forward a cohesive life sciences sector strategy, but to move that strategy to action. In 2021, after a year-long consultation and investigation phase, the report: “Reinforcing Belgium’s Position as a Leading Global Hub” was released. The joint charter pledged to further strengthen Belgium’s position in biopharma research, development and production. The charter was created and signed by the Belgian government, academia, and the health and biotech industry. In total, there were five recommendations, one of which focused on unlocking the potential of Belgium’s rich health data sources, in particular by connecting data sources, improving accessibility, and the use of analytics, to improve patient outcomes and public health.
Similarly, I believe Canada may very well be home to one of the most robust life sciences sector strategies globally and could even be a world leader in the space of artificial intelligence within healthcare. Canada has all the right ingredients to ensure strong and sustainable healthcare into the future, but we all need to work together to make this reality happen and drive this forward now.
Q: What do you think has hindered Canada from moving this strategy into action?
Canada often considers itself to be small. But compared to many other countries like Belgium we are not. But, we are fragmented. So our parts may seem small. But our whole - a country united around a cohesive, strong, vibrant, expanding life sciences sector - has the potential to be incredibly powerful here at home and on the global stage. The strategies are in place. The talent is here. The opportunities are here. The key is to work together, all sectors and relevant industries, to take our first steps forward.
Q: Is Canada on a path to foster an environment where sharing and integration of standardized healthcare data is being applied to healthcare innovation?
A: In order to realize the full potential of our health data, we need to modernize privacy regulations to allow for the use of secure health information and remove barriers to data integration. There needs to be better legal, regulatory and policy frameworks for digital and data-driven healthcare decisions. We have several platforms for change, such as the pan-Canadian Health Data Strategy Consultations and the pan-Canadian AI Strategy. Going forward, the impact of data-driven healthcare will depend on the broader community’s commitment to best practices around data, methodologies, and its applications.
We need to continue exploring emerging technologies and tools for a resilient healthcare system. We know that our systems are strained, and we need to think creatively and be prepared to disrupt the status-quo. And we can do this together, by creating a roundtable format focused on the priorities outlined by our governments, and mobilizing towards action.
In our next sit-down with Brigitte, we delve into leveraging artificial intelligence as a critical element to ensuring better clinical care, decision-making and outcomes.