From the CEO

Technology and innovation are transforming the practice of medicine. Within my specialty of surgery, there have been dramatic, technology-driven changes that have improved both quality and safety. An open colon resection in my early practice required five days of convalescence. Today, with minimally invasive surgery techniques and early feeding protocols, patients are safely home after 18-24 hours. Similar examples can be found in every area of practice.

While there has already been marked progress, I believe we are on the cusp of even greater advances that will significantly improve our ability to deliver care. Individualized gene therapy, robotic surgery, advanced decision support tools such as Watson, and new data collection and analysis capabilities are just a few of the technologies that will transform how we practise. All of this bodes well for physicians and our patients.

At the CMPA, we are embracing new technologies and innovations that can enhance the services we deliver to our members. We also recognize that change brings uncertainty and, for all the positive potential offered by new technology, many of our members may be concerned about unintended consequences, including those in the medical-legal domain.

We are responding to the rapidly changing practice environment of our members in a number of ways:

  • First, we are very active with governments, medical regulatory authorities, hospitals, and others in advocating for clear, workable policies to guide the use of new technologies. We believe that if the expectations of physicians are reasonable and clearly articulated, medical-legal issues will be greatly reduced.
  • Second, we continue to adapt the advice we offer to members—through our educational programs and in one-on-one calls—so that it reflects the realities of emerging technologies. Our physician advisors answer thousands of calls each year on issues such as electronic records and other innovations, and in this way help members navigate their way through an evolving environment.
  • Finally, in the event that a medical-legal difficulty does arise, we are here to provide assistance to members, including the provision of legal counsel if necessary. As a result of CMPA assistance, Canadian physicians can feel confident that their professional integrity will be protected.

Notwithstanding the challenges that many physicians face in their practices, I believe the long-term prospect for medicine and physicians is very bright. I am even somewhat envious of young residents and early career doctors who will have access to technologies and approaches to patient care that were never available to me. However, I am also realistic enough to recognize that medicine’s adoption of innovative technologies will not be without setbacks. This is why reliable, physician-oriented medical liability protection is so important. As Canadian physicians navigate the technology-enabled future, the CMPA stands ready to provide the assistance you need.

Hartley Stern
MD, FRCSC, FACS