Insights August 2019

What Ontario Health Teams can learn from Ed Sheeran

Shirlee Sharkey



This summer I’ve been listening to Ed Sheeran’s new album, No.6 Collaborations Project. It features an eclectic mix of genres with appearances from popular guest artists like Camila Cabello, Bruno Mars, Chris Stapleton and Justin Bieber. Now I’m no music critic but I do like to look at other industries for insight and mainstream examples that can help to inform our thinking in healthcare. So in the spirit of summer fun, here’s three things that Ontario Health Teams (OHTs) can learn from Ed Sheeran:

1. Create something unexpected

Whether it’s a new song or model of care, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Like so many great musical collaborations throughout history have shown us, magic happens when you bring together diverse players and allow time and space to create. There’s often an experimental or messy phase where the outcome is not entirely predictable, and that’s OK! As the first wave of partners begin working together towards the establishment of Ontario Health Teams, it’s imperative that we continue to stretch our thinking and stay open to novel approaches that have yet to be discovered.

2. Allow your partners to shine

While Sheeran himself is a best-selling artist, many of the songs on No.6 reflect the musical style of his collaborators more than his own classic acoustic sound. From rap to rock to R&B, Sheeran manages to tie it all together and in doing so, creates something that appeals to audiences beyond his own fan base. The lesson for OHTs? At every level, we need to build each other up and harness the unique strengths of each contributor in a way that allows everyone to shine. This takes time, trust and a certain level of confidence and humility, particularly on the part of dominant voices.

3. Let the people decide

While Sheeran’s collab project received mixed reviews from critics, fans have embraced it – the album debuted at number one in 14 countries around the world and 95% of Google users rate it positively. This difference in perspective can often be found in healthcare as well, between patients and providers for example. With the move to OHTs, we have an opportunity to address the inherent disconnect that exists between healthy aging and how health services are structured, funded and delivered. Overwhelmingly, people want to live and age in their own homes and communities, with access to seamless care that meets their individual needs and preferences. We must have unshaking confidence in the wisdom of patients and families, as they lead us on fresh paths and challenge the entire system to shift toward more personalized and population-based approaches.

Like Sheeran, it’s time to break out of our traditional boxes in healthcare and unlock the true strength and beauty of collaboration – indeed, it is the only way that Ontario Health Teams will succeed. 


About the Author(s)

Shirlee Sharkey is President and CEO at SE Health


Reprinted with permission.


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