At one time, digitization meant incorporating telephones, fax, and email technology into your business or organization. Those advancements in technology have now become standards, and the concept of digitization has evolved drastically.

Will Falk, Executive in Residence at Think Research and Dr. R. Sacha Bhatia, Director of the Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care at Women’s College Hospital, recently published a co-authored healthcare policy paper, entitled Modernizing Canada’s Healthcare System through the Virtualization of Services. In this insightful piece, published by the C.D. Howe Institute, Will and Sacha outline the benefits of taking advantage of the current age of digitization, and the risks that Canada’s healthcare system could face if it were to remain unchanged and fall behind the rapidly changing tides of technology. Specifically, the paper highlights the increased need for virtualized care, and shares some practical steps we can take in its adoption.

Implementing virtual care into our healthcare infrastructure has the potential of reducing wait times and costs, allowing for more patient-centred care, as well as increasing patient and provider satisfaction, all of which have been a major focus to the Canadian healthcare sector in recent years. Current investments are being made in regards to digitization, with Canadian governments investing billions of dollars into this progressive field. Canada Health Infoway indicates a 233% increase in the online access to medical records (e-viewing) and a 214% growth rate in the requests for prescription renewal (e-prescribing) (4). People want to easily access their health records and communicate faster with care providers to coordinate and manage their own health care. This marks the dawn of a new, patient-centred era in healthcare, and virtual care is a driving force behind this shift (12). In addition, Will and Sacha elaborate on the potential harms and risks Canada could face if the country doesn’t evolve in accordance with the modern age of digitization.

As their compelling paper explains, virtual care tools are being increasingly adopted by consumers as well. As the ‘natural next step’ for Canadian healthcare, Will and Sacha argue that Canada needs to take advantage of virtual care’s benefits to better meet the needs of its populations (12). In light of this, Think Research has developed its own Virtual Care tool, a cloud-based platform that allows patients to interact virtually with care providers. This tool provides a simple, yet effective solution to current gaps in the system by reducing overhead costs, strengthening communication and ultimately increasing care quality and convenience.

Collectively, we’ve come a long way from implementing landlines and fax machines. However, there are still improvements to be made as Canada’s healthcare policy and regulations need to evolve in pace with technological advances.

Visit C.D. Howe Institute to read the full paper >