Toronto, June 22, 2021, – Today Optimus SBR, one of the largest independent management consulting firms in North America, announced their seventh acquisition in a decade with the purchase of a data advisory and analytics firm – Unilytics. At the same time, they announced the formal establishment of Optimus SBR Technology.
The events of the past year have driven significant changes in consumer behaviour and the way in which people interact to get work done. The rapid acceleration of digital adoption has taken hold across every industry. Optimus SBR has made significant investments over the past several months to support this shift, specifically around Data and Technology.
“I’m thrilled to announce that we have completed our seventh acquisition with the purchase of a data advisory and analytics firm – Unilytics,” said Kevin Gauci, Founder and CEO, Optimus SBR. “Unilytics brings over 20 years of experience with helping organizations build their data capabilities to better support decisions, make strategic moves, and set policies with rich reporting and dashboarding capabilities. When added to Optimus SBR’s already strong data offering, this new addition will allow us to offer our clients a more robust suite of data services.”
The Unilytics team is excited to be joining Optimus SBR and are eager to offer enhanced services to their existing clients in the areas of service delivery, work practices, subject matter expertise, and skill diversity.
“I am very excited about the continued evolution of the Unilytics story. Optimus SBR shares our entrepreneurial spirit, and their bold, can-do attitude is a strong match to how we have provided clients with value,” said Peder Enhorning, President and CEO, Unilytics.
Optimus SBR is now well positioned to offer an end-to-end solution, from data strategy, governance, infrastructure, and data management, to visualization, insights and training via their expanded offering Optimus SBR Data.
Over the past year, Optimus SBR has seen their clients accelerate initiatives such as their digital offerings as well as rushing to establish remote working infrastructure and effective communication channels. Recognizing this fundamental acceleration of technology adoption, and its increasing criticality to clients’ business models, Optimus SBR also announced the formal establishment of Optimus SBR Technology.
“While we have always offered some technology capabilities, we felt it critical that we expand our official offering of technology services. We have welcomed a new head of Technology, Doug Wilson, formerly of BMO, TD Bank and CGI, and are pleased to offer an expanded portfolio of services that range from IT strategy and transformation through to execution support of IT delivery and operations initiatives,” said Kevin.
Optimus SBR has been on an amazing ten-year journey of providing value-driven and innovative solutions for clients, and these latest developments will help ensure that this story continues.
For the third consecutive year, Optimus SBR is being recognized as one of the Best Workplaces™ in Canada!
Our placement on the 2021 Best Workplaces™ in Canada list is a celebration of the tenacity and Bold Attitude our team possesses. The past year has been difficult for many of us, but we are incredibly proud of the commitment our employees have made in maintaining the culture that makes Optimus SBR a Great Place to Work.
The global pandemic caused us to adjust the delivery of some key culture activities but also created opportunities to get creative with “staying together while working apart”. We have developed programs that fully support our remote work environment, including major investments in mental health, proper virtual work etiquette guides, and a breadth of online social activities, such as talent shows, trivia, and our ever popular ‘Tuesday Talks’ series. Our people are our business, and our culture has continued to remain at the forefront during the pandemic to keep everyone safe and supported.
The 2021 Best Workplaces™ in Canada list is compiled by the Great Place to Work® Institute. The competition process to be ranked on this list is employee driven, based on two criteria: two-thirds of the total score comes from confidential employee survey results and the remaining one-third from an in-depth review of the organization’s culture. This offers a rigorous representation of the organization from an employee perspective, and an overall portrait of the workplace culture. Together, they provide crucial data relative to five trust-building dimensions: credibility, respect, fairness, pride, and camaraderie. This year’s list captured the experience and sentiment of over 82,000 employees, rolling out to impact over 300,000 Canadian employees.
“A-ha” moment: noun – a moment of sudden insight or discovery
We’ve all had an ‘a-ha’ moment. And when we do, we relish the feeling. It’s like a spark that ignites and compels you to remain in that moment of clarity.
The intimacy and immediacy of the work we do with our clients through our myPractice offering often generates a-ha moments for their employees on what they need to do to be better in their role. We offer programs through myPractice aimed at Sales leaders, customer service professionals, and managers from diverse industries. When they complete our programs, they leave with a renewed sense of purpose and clarity for their people and their organizations.
With thousands of hours of myPractice experiences under our belts and over 20 years of data and feedback to reference, we see ‘a-ha’ moments all the time. I want to share the Top 5 ‘A-ha’ moments that I’ve encountered and show you the impact not only on the employee but on their organization, too.
A-ha Moment #1: The importance of active listening
The most frequent realization is that people aren’t truly listening.
It’s easy to convince yourself that you are listening to someone. If you peel the onion on most communication issues, it comes down to our personal filters and the unconscious assumptions we make. We can’t help but respond ‘autobiographically’ to what we hear. We think we see, we think we hear and then we jump to conclusions, which only serves to undermine our active listening. Challenge yourself to really hear what is being said before making any assumptions. Listen without trying to solve the problem, and ask more questions.
“It’s easy to look and nod at someone but to really listen and uncover what it is they truly want? That’s not easy. I think I come across as a trusted advisor when I listen and park all my assumptions so that I can make a good recommendation.” – Financial Advisor, Banking
A-ha Moment #2: Paraphrase back what you heard
Most miscommunications stem from not taking the time to truly understand what is being said. When our clients realize that they have not been doing this, they instantly see the negative impact that comes as a result.
The great thing about paraphrasing is that it actually forces you to listen and lets you practice how to summarize what you heard. The added benefit is that your audience will feel heard. People feel validated when they feel heard. Good listening makes people feel important and understood. This is what elevates a relationship to the next level. In essence: Say what you see and say what you hear.
“Repeating back what a stressed person says to me is such a great thing to do! It totally calms the person down because it proves that I was listening and that I heard them. It’s so cool how a simple thing can be so powerful.” – Front Line Customer Service Employee, Transportation Industry
A-ha Moment #3: So that’s what empathy is!
Relationships don’t evolve when an emotional connection has not been made. Recognizing the need to be empathetic clears the path to making that connection.
Many people hear the word ‘empathy’ and glaze over because it is an overused term. Empathy is not about being sorry or having sympathy. It’s about trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. If paraphrasing is repeating back the facts, empathy is about paraphrasing the emotions you see or hear. While empathy is not an easy skill to acquire, you can learn to pause and listen and seek to understand through practice.
“Customers don’t open up easily. Making a connection allows me to dive more deeply into personal circumstances. Using empathy can really make a difference with our customers. I need to bring more empathy to balance out the business side of things; to really care for the customer.” – Financial Advisor, Banking
A-ha Moment #4: This will help me do my job better… and live my life better
As painful as well designed experiential learning approaches can be for the participant, you need to provide learning environments that reflect your employees’ reality. It’s not easy and requires an experiential learning mindset.
‘Off the shelf’ learning is great for knowledge acquisition but if you seek real skill acquisition and behaviour change, your best course of action is to create realistic simulations that can be experienced and practiced. This allows your employees to feel, viscerally, the impact of their actions – for better or for worse. By offering learning in a safe environment and providing supportive feedback, learners have the freedom to practice a skill, adjust and try again – the key to more ‘a-ha’ moments.
“I really appreciate doing the roleplays. It was a tremendous experience. Thank you for giving us the skills and support to try, fail and grow. These are skills that I will take with me, whether at work, home or at play. Thank you!” – Front Line Customer Service Employee, Transportation Industry
A-ha Moment #5: I can’t believe my company did this for me!
In these days of constant change and an unrelenting focus on the bottom line, it’s not surprising that employees feel less and less supported. The ‘a-ha’ moment for employees comes when they recognize the investment their organization is making in them to become better.
Studies show that when organizations offer training opportunities for employees, job satisfaction and engagement also increases. Training ranks higher than mentoring, sabbaticals and tuition reimbursement. Employees often tell us how grateful they are that their organization is invested in them and how as a result, they feel a renewed investment in their organization. A win/win!
Training does not have to be expensive to be effective. Impact can be made in a short periods of time and with lasting effects.
“I think it’s that our firm has given us training. I think it’s awesome. I’ll work at the skills I have learned and make it a conscious behaviour each day to listen, and let my clients know I’ve heard them.” – Advisor, Travel Industry
Need an ‘a-ha’ moment of your own? Tell me which of the Top 5 interests you most and we will provide you with a free 30-minute practice experience.
Contact us to learn more about myPractice and how we can help your organization.
Organizing Care Around People and Places: The People’s Health Care Act and Integrated Care Delivery Systems
At Optimus SBR, we regularly keep an eye on public sector developments for our clients. In Ontario, the health care landscape is changing. On February 26th, the government introduced Bill 74, The People’s Health Care Act, 2019. On March 8th, it announced a new board of directors for the “superagency” described in the bill, Ontario Health. This new legislation speaks of “integrated care delivery systems”, one of many emerging models of care organized around people and places. Sometimes called integrated care systems or population health systems, these new models represent a change to how health care is structured and delivered, focusing on defined populations and health outcomes, rather than organizations and services.
In this note, we:
- Briefly orient health care decision makers to the different terms and summarize key features of these models in the United States and United Kingdom; and
- Suggest areas of focus for Ontario’s health care system planners, health service providers, and hospitals in particular, to start their transition to these new models of care.
Ontario’s government is not tinkering around the edges when it comes to the health care system – dramatic changes are in progress.
Under the new legislation, Ontario Health is expected to take over system planning and a variety of provincial program roles and responsibilities from many existing entities. And when it comes to population health and integrated care, it is clear that health service providers will be asked to increase collaboration and integration of services through the new integrated care delivery systems, currently called “Ontario Health Teams”. The legislation speaks of these systems as a person, entity, or group of people or entities that have “…the ability to deliver, in an integrated and co-ordinated manner, at least three of the following types of services:
- hospital services,
- primary care services
- mental health or addictions services,
- home care or community services,
- long-term care home services,
- palliative care services,
- any other prescribed health care service or non-health service that supports the provision of health care services…”
While the last clause provides some wiggle room, there is a clear expectation that health care providers need to work together to provide integrated care.
Plan and Know What You Can Do
For health service providers, it is important to:
Start Planning Early – Several organizations have already started planning for the new population health/integrated health care environment. While those that move first will encounter implementation challenges first, they will also learn faster, attract staff that can help them innovate, and likely garner more resources over the long term.
Know What You Can Do – While large structural changes are afoot, you need not wait until all the details are all formally announced and worked out. Planning, scoping, identifying like-minded partners, and analyzing populations and approaches can all be done ahead of time while policy details are being worked out. More on this later.
A Quick Tour: Population Health Systems, Integrated Care Models and More
When people speak about population health and integrated care, the conversation often remains frustratingly vague. And as it gets more specific, one often finds oneself saying, “Sorry, what do you mean exactly?” So rather than pile on the terms with needless consulting jargon, we will take you on a quick tour of the literature we have found helpful in thinking about population health and integrated care systems so that you can press on.
What is a Population Health System?
In a population health system, many providers work as a single organization to take accountability for the health needs and well-being of a defined population, by integrating services across multiple domains such as healthcare, prevention, social care and welfare.
Population health systems do more than just treat people once they are ill – they also work to proactively maintain and improve people’s heath through community-based care, education and self-management support.
Apart from being good practice and addressing the links between social determinants of health and health itself, they also work to reduce demand for expensive care settings, like hospitals and long-term care homes.
In 2015, The King’s Fund published a helpful overview of population health systems that distinguishes them from integrated care models. It includes several brief case studies including Kaiser Permanente as well as others from Sweden, New Zealand, and Germany. The key distinction they make is that:
- Population health systems are focused on “[i]mproving health across whole populations, including the distribution of health outcomes”, while
- Integrated care models are focused on “…[c]o-ordination of care services for defined groups of people (e.g., older people and those with complex needs)”.
Ontario Versus the US and UK
To date, Ontario has pursued a number of initiatives that skirted the line between these two concepts, including redesigning service pathways for specific populations (e.g., Health Links, Integrated Care Collaboratives) and value-based payment models (e.g., Quality-Based Procedures, bundled funding models). But the United States – through Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) – and the United Kingdom – through Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) – are further down the path toward population health systems.
While structure, scope and approach vary among ACO models (there are now over 1,000 active ACOs in the United States), they share common features and approaches. Successful ACOs tend to be well-coordinated groups of doctors, hospitals, and other care providers who coordinate high-quality care for a defined population across the care continuum. This includes the basic clinical functions of:
- Coordinating clinical service delivery among all participating providers;
- Facilitating the delivery of more effective and efficient care through increased access, population management, care management and care self-management education; and
- Translating patient clinical and service use data to promote more effective and proactive care at a population-level.
Six key features of ACOs have been identified by a group of prominent Canadian researchers, outlined in Figure 1 below: defined populations, triple aim (or quadruple aim) goals, embedded care coordination, electronic health records, networks of providers, and shared savings. Importantly, they note that while many of these features have been present in recent new models of care piloted in various jurisdictions in Canada, no single model has included all features of an ACO model to date.
Figure 1: Six Key Features of ACOs Identified in the North American Observatory on Health Systems and Policies Rapid Review
The United Kingdom’s ICSs include and expand upon the ACO scope, with the intent of collaborating more routinely with local authorities and social care providers to address social determinants of health. While it is early days for ICSs, who have been focused on establishing governance, they are likely to replicate in some manner the six key features of ACOs.
What is Applicable in Ontario?
If you are a health system planner or hospital executive, there are certain organizations often held up as models to emulate, like Kaiser Permanente, Intermountain Health, or Geisinger Health System. At Optimus SBR, when they do come up, we caution our clients that it is often forgotten they operate in different environments: different federal/state responsibilities, different contractual relationships with physicians, different funders, and different patients. Local context needs to be considered when adapting these models to Ontario.
What You Can Do
Health service providers can start creating population health systems or integrated care models today, and these efforts will be relevant for the most part regardless of what changes occur in Ontario now or in the future. These models are about working in partnership with others to improve the patient experience and deliver care with a population and outcome focus.
To get started, we recommend hospitals and health service providers focus on the items below.
Identify the right role for your organization and get started
- What role is right for your organization? At present, expectations are that there will be 30-50 Ontario Health Teams in Ontario once they are fully rolled out. Health system planners and particularly health service provider and hospital leaders need to examine their local health system and context, and consider their own organizational capabilities and strengths alongside those of potential partners. There is no set role for providers of a certain type in these models, so planning is needed to identify the right role for your organization and potential partners that are a good fit with local needs. What drives population health where you are? What are you good at? What are you not so good at? Who has certain strengths that you lack?
- Then get started. As you do so, we recommend not getting overly caught up in governance. This is different from how most providers typically plan and implement today, and in the past drawn out governance conversations have limited the system’s ability to achieve timely change. Patients do not have time to wait – the way you organize and deliver care needs to change today.
Build a network of partners and providers, likely starting with primary care
- While formal Ontario Health Team partnerships may need to wait, you can start talking to potential partners and establishing effective working relationships. You can learn more about patient populations and how you can collectively serve them.
- In particular, a strong and tactical partnership with local primary care is often crucial. Primary care is the cornerstone of integrated, population-based care models. In the short term, you may need to identify a primary care coalition of the willing, then broaden it over the next few years. The main idea is to get going, and expand governance and partnerships as you iterate and grow your local model.
Segment populations and redesign approaches across care settings
- The prospect of being held genuinely accountable for population health will likely focus people’s minds. Consequently, you will want to understand your local populations better, segmenting and stratifying and then designing approaches that work with you and your partners in your local context.
Optimus SBR’s Health Care Practice
Optimus SBR is an implementation-focused firm that specializes in turning policy into action. Our team has significant experience working with major health care stakeholders, from the MOHLTC, large hospitals, LHINs, home and community care, and community health service providers. We partner to create new models of care, facilitate decision making, and develop proposals for government approval. With our real world health care integration experience, we can get you delivering on the outcomes you need to deliver today.
If you have found this helpful, give us a call, or send us a note.
Brad Ferguson, SVP, Industries and Government Practice
Brad.Ferguson [@]optimusssbr.com 416.649.9184
David Lynch, Principal
Jason Huehn, Manager
Government of Ontario (2019). Backgrounder: Ontario Health Board of Directors. March 8, 2019. [online: web] URL: https://news.ontario.ca/mohltc/en/2019/03/ontario-health-board-of-directors.html.
 Bill 74, The People’s Health Care Act, 2019, 1st Sess, 42nd Parliament, Ontario, 2019, s.29(2)(a). Italics added.
 Alderwick, Hugh, Chris Ham, and David Buck (2015). Population Health Systems: Going Beyond Integrated Care. London: The King’s Fund. [online: web] URL: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/field_publication_file/population-health-systems-kingsfund-feb15.pdf.
 Muhlestein, David, Robert Saunders, Robert Richards, and Mark McLennan (2018). “Recent Progress In The Value Journey: Growth Of ACOs and Value-Based Payment Models In 2018.” Health Affairs Blog, August 14, 2018. [online: web] URL: https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20180810.481968/full/.
 Peckham, A., D. Rudoler, D. Bhatia, S. Fakim, S. Allin, and G. Marchildon (2018). Accountable Care Organizations and the Canadian Context. Rapid Review 9. Toronto: North American Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. [Online: web] URL: https://ihpme.utoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/NAO-Rapid-Review-9_EN.pdf.
 Charles, Anna, Lillie Wenzel, Matthew Kershaw, Chris Ham, and Nicola Walsh (2018). A Year of Integrated Health Systems: Reviewing the Journey So Far. London: The King’s Fund. [online: web] URL: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/year-integrated-care-systems