National healthcare conferences in Cayman have been raising the Islands’ profile in the regional and international health industry.
The fact that internationally known speakers are “lining up” to make presentations and speak at the 20/20 National Healthcare Conference this month is a sign that Cayman is on the world’s healthcare map, said health minister Mark Scotland, as his ministry and the Health Services Authority prepare for the event at the Ritz-Carlton hotel on 18-20 October.
“I’m excited about this. It’s our third national healthcare conference. It’s really taking off now. When we started, we intended it to be an annual event and it’s grown, even from an international appeal perspective, because the first year, we had mostly local speakers and a couple of international speakers. Now, we have a situation where speakers are lining up, wanting to get in on the conference,” he said.
The minister added: “We wanted the conference to be something that was going to raise the profile of healthcare here in the Cayman Islands and bring our professionals and practitioners together as much as possible and provide that forum for learning and networking, and I think it’s done that.” This year’s theme is “Patient-centred care: Achieving quality outcomes”. The two previous conferences focussed on cost and quality of healthcare. Mr. Scotland said all these topical themes were extremely relevant to the provision of healthcare.
Although the conferences have attracted and continue to attract top-notch overseas speakers, local presenters have not disappointed, with many informative, well-researched and germane presentations being made by Cayman’s own professionals, showing that Cayman has “excellent expertise” to tap into, Minister Scotland said.
This year’s speakers include a roster that hail from Cayman, the United States and Canada. Opening remarks will be made by Premier McKeeva Bush and Mr. Scotland will deliver the welcome address and introduction on the first day of the three-day conference.
The conference this year will be a departure from the conferences of 2010 and 2011, in that they will include “break-out sessions” on the second day of the conference, Friday, 19 October. The new breakout session format will target oncology, paediatric health and workplace wellness. Friday is the only full day of sessions and presentations, as the conference ends at lunchtime on Saturday, 20 October.
“We’ve tried to keep the conference short,” said Mr. Scotland. “And so, because of the number of speakers this year, we’ll have break-out sessions. In previous years we’ve had one big session and we found that if people are there from 8.30am till 6pm, listening to every speaker, it’s a very long day. Saturday morning will be a wrap up of the break-out sessions. It’s an excellent format.” The 20/20 conference is fully sponsored by local and overseas companies and organisations and costs the government nothing. Mr. Scotland said the cost to put on the conference is “well over $100,000”.
Mr. Scotland commended the CEO of the Health Services Authority Lizzette Yearwood, whose brainchild the annual healthcare conference was. “When I first took office, we sat together and talked about raising the profile of healthcare in Cayman and she talked about these conferences and now we’re doing them,” he said.
Another concept of the conferences that has remained from those first conversations about them was that they are free for attendees.
“We’ve kept the conference free of charge. That’s been a key point for me. You talk about sponsorship in lean times, but attendance of conferences in lean times is also an issue,” Mr. Scotland said.
He believes this year’s theme of patient-centred care will resonate with both healthcare providers and patients.
“With service providers, it’s their remit, it’s all about patient-centred care and how to deliver quality care at a reasonable cost, but centred around the patient. Being a healthcare provider is just like being any service provider, like in the tourism industry, it’s all about your customers,” the minister said.
He added: “It goes both ways. It’s also about helping patients understand what to expect. We’re in a very small community, with a very small number of healthcare providers. I don’t think they themselves all grasp what patient-centred care is. In some cases, it’s ‘you don’t have much choice, you have to come to me, I’m your general practitioner, the HSA is your only public hospital’… but the more healthcare provision grows, patients have more of a choice.”
And in providing a service that is more centred around patients and their needs and expectations, healthcare professionals are not just competing with fellow practitioners in the Cayman Islands, they also have to realise they’re competing against healthcare providers outside Cayman, the health minister said.
“Healthcare in Cayman is no different than when you talk about someone building a house and you want to consider where to get building material. The competition to get building materials to buy for your home is not between local hardware stores, it’s between the local hardware stores and the ones overseas… When I talk about patient-centred care, it’s about how do service providers here compete. It’s good for the economy and it’s better for the patient [as it means] less travelling overseas for healthcare,” he said.
To find out more about the healthcare conference, visit www.healthcareconference.ky.