COACH was formed in 1975 by several health professionals and vendors in the medical industry.

They recognized that significant sharing of ideas and efforts must take place in order to enable Canadian health institutions to effectively use information technology and systems. The focus has since expanded to include not only the technology and the systems, but also the effective use of health information for decision-making.


Around 1969, an IBM users group called Electronic Computing Health Oriented (ECHO) was formed. At the time, membership was limited to IBM customers, and their semi-annual meetings were a mix of IBM tech presentations and hospital CIO success stories. At one such event in 1975, Steve Huesing, Assistant Executive Director of the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton, together with IBM National Health Industry Coordinator Robert Zuckerman, decided that a Canadian ECHO might be a good idea. They pulled together all nine of the Canadian delegates in attendance, and a general agreement was reached: there was a definite need for a Canadian organization concerned with Canadian problems in healthcare computing. A national organization that would provide ideas, advice, and leadership to hospitals, government agencies, and medical associations. Steven Huesing volunteered to coordinate, and the idea that would become COACH was born.

After much debate, the group decided that the fledgling Canadian organization would stand on its own, and not be affiliated with ECHO. A new name was required. At the August 18 + 19 founding meeting in Regina, six newly minted board members discussed membership, objectives, bylaws… and a new name. The Canadian Organization for Advancement of Computers in Health (COACH) was now a reality. Eventually, the acronym (COACH) replaced the original name, and the tagline ‘Canada’s Health Informatics Association’ was added in 2001.

Pictured: (seated left to right) Denis Protti, Secretary; Steven Huesing, President; Marie Barrett, Program Chair. (standing left to right) Robert Zuckerman, Vice-President; Robert Palmer, Publications Chairman; Richard Hopkins, Treasurer.

International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA)

COACH is a Charter IMIA member and has been the Canadian representative with the organization since its inception in 1980. The world body for health and biomedical informatics, IMIA provides leadership and expertise to the multidisciplinary, health-focused community and policy makers to enable the transformation of healthcare in accord with the worldwide vision of improving the health of the world population. COACH supports the goals and objectives of IMIA and works within the international community to further the development of HI and in the best interests of COACH members.

COACH is an active participant in the development and implementation of international standards for health information as the key to electronic health record (EHR) initiatives in Canada and worldwide. COACH also contributes to international standards development through members’ involvement with the ISO Technical Committee on Health Informatics (TC 215), HL7 and International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation (IHTSDO) and is officially represented on the Canada Health Infoway Standards Collaborative committees.
COACH is leading this initiative to advance the use of safety practices for eHealth solutions and health software in Canada. COACH envisions that stakeholders in the eSafety ecosystem involved in design, implementation and use of e-Health solutions will want to embrace a culture of eSafety and will need best practice-based guidelines on how to implement and incorporate e-Health safety in their existing methodologies. The new COACH eSafety Guidelines are being designed to complement the current culture of patient safety in clinical care delivery and foster the accelerated adoption of safer eHealth solutions and health software, such that health informatics professionals can rapidly move their organization to an optimized level of maturity. This work builds on COACH’s leadership role with ISO/TC215 on its safe health software initiative. See eSafety.