THOUGHTS

Digital Healthcare in Canada: What Needs to be Done to Enable Smooth Transition

Sep 26, 2019

Although Canadians are keen about implementing digital healthcare, their healthcare system lags behind. To drive improved healthcare outcomes, the Canadian government must focus on adopting healthcare innovations, customer-driven models, and a new regulatory framework that facilitates change and embraces digital healthcare.

What is digital healthcare services?

Digital healthcare services is a simple concept. It encompasses using technology to improve health and wellness of patients. Today, the term digital healthcare includes electronic health (health-related information, resources, and services provided electronically) as well as developing areas such as advanced computing science ( big data that can provide valuable insights into population health) and artificial intelligence (AI), wherein computer systems perform tasks that would normally require human capacities, such as decision-making. With new healthcare solutions constantly changing the way we live, it is fair to say that the future of healthcare is digital.

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Canada ranks among the lowest when compared to other OECD countries that have universal healthcare systems. Healthcare consumers becoming increasingly empowered by the volume and ease of access to healthcare information, even so, the current model for healthcare delivery remains unchanged fundamentally. A number of challenges will have to be addressed at the national, provincial, and territorial level in Canada to create an environment wherein the current model can incorporate digital healthcare tools. While the journey towards a fully patient and family-centric approach to healthcare will be long, there are some measures that governments could initiate in order to accelerate the process and implement digital healthcare more effectively.

Digital healthcare

Adjust fees paid to physicians

The Canadian government must ensure that fair and adequate compensation is given to physicians for virtual consultations. Some provinces such as British Columbia and Alberta have implemented pilots of revised fee structures, albeit a pan-Canadian strategy is yet to be implemented for revised compensation. In such situations, if the physician billing structure has been modified in a particular province to allow virtual consultations, interprovincial licensing and regulations might restrict physicians from being able to employ these changes across provincial borders.

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Common strategy for adoption of healthcare innovation

A common nationwide strategy must be adopted by the Canadian government to better implement innovations such as digital healthcare. By establishing incubators and accelerators, the government is currently encouraging and supporting an entrepreneurial culture in the business sector. By incorporating this as a part of a nationally designed vision for the future of healthcare, new solutions for healthcare can be encouraged. Healthcare strategy should largely revolve around the patient, their family, and the caregiver rather than on systems and institutions. A comprehensive analysis of the customer experience of healthcare companies will provide valuable insights into the opportunities of realizing efficiency through the application of digital healthcare solutions.

Policy framework for digital healthcare solutions

The federal and provincial governments in Canada should collaboratively design a policy framework for the effective adoption of secure digital healthcare solutions. Innovative healthcare technologies will ensure secure data oversight through cloud solutions and blockchain, consequently paving the way for shared policies and standards. Through this, providers will be able to take full advantage of the significant data generated by the single-payer health care system. Moreover, this will also ensure that all Canadians can use their individual health data in partnership with their health professionals to identify personalized healthcare solutions.

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