Picture of Robyn TamblynRobyn Tamblyn is the Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Health Services and Policy Research, and a Professor in the Departments of Medicine and  Epidemiology & Biostatistics in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University, Canada

Picture of Andrew Bazemore

Andrew Bazemore is a practicing physician and the Director of the Robert Graham Center – Policy Studies in Family Medicine & Primary Care –  in Washington, DC


Yehuda Berg, an American author and spiritual leader, was probably talking about individual level transformation when he said “We need to realize that our path to transformation is through our mistakes. We’re meant to make mistakes, recognize them, and move on to become unlimited.” But the statement has a lot of validity even applied to system level transformation.

Canada and the United States share the dubious honor of ranking near the top of OECD nations for total healthcare costs and near the bottom for health outcomes, whether measured in terms of individual health or health system performance. But it is through the recognition of these mistakes that both countries have embarked on a path toward transformation.

While differences between the two systems of health care delivery are frequently emphasized, we actually face some common challenges to primary care transformation, including costs, health equity, multi-morbidity, and patient engagement. Inherent in each of these challenges are issues related to the care of vulnerable populations, and the measurement of and payment for desired impacts and outcomes.  Both countries also continue to struggle to build on a decade of advancements in Health Information Technology (HIT) and data aggregation, and to scale up their local successes to regional and national levels.

Inspired by our mistakes, we are taking this opportunity to focus on the strengths and successes that have sprung up across our countries, to merge evidence from both sides of the border, and to contemplate the ingredients necessary to support scale-up, thus moving us forward on the path of health system and primary care transformation. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Health Services and Policy Research (CIHR-IHSPR), the Robert Graham Center (USA), the American Board of Family Medicine, The Institutes for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (Canada) and the North American Primary Care Research Group have jointly planned a day and a half day symposium in Washington, DC to take place on March 2-3, 2017.

The Symposium, entitled “Advancing the Science of Transformation in Integrated Primary Care: Informing Policy Options for Scaling-up Innovation,will bring together 150 leaders in primary health care delivery, policy and research from Canada and the US. The Symposium has been developed by a bi-national Planning Committee, with the following objectives:

  1. Share cross-border, evidence-based success stories addressing key challenges in integrated primary care transformation
  2. Identify and examine opportunities to advance broader system-wide primary care innovation
  3. Develop a bi-national research agenda to support primary healthcare transformation
  4. Support opportunities for cross-border learning and collaboration

It will bring together stakeholders – including primary care clinicians, public health professionals, payers, policymakers, researchers and patients – to highlight bright spots and successes across three theme areas: 1) Patient centered care for people experiencing multiple morbidities, 2) Alternative payment models, and 3) Addressing health equity and disparities across diverse communities.  In the process, attendees will seek to develop a bi-national research agenda for key topics within these broad themes. In each topic area, there will be participant discussions focusing on policy changes and additional evidence that supports improvements in implementation.

While the Symposium is invitational, we’ll be working on sharing the discussions and learning that emerge through additional blog posts and publications. So stay tuned for more about this event, and be sure to follow and join the discussion on March 2-3 at #CrossBorderPC2017.