Healthcare in Canada and around the world has experienced profound change in recent years, but the accelerated shift to digital brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic was unlike anything we’ve experienced before. With healthcare companies expected to continue adopting digital solutions — PwC estimates digital health spending in Canada will more than double by 2030, going from making up 3% of global healthcare expenditures to an estimated 8% — we’re taking a look at five digital healthcare trends that are expected to impact healthcare in Canada in 2022 and beyond.
Better Data, Enhanced Communication
Data is one of the most critical components of healthcare. Good data empowers clinicians to make better decisions, improves patient care, reduces healthcare spending waste, and enables us to more rapidly respond to public health crises. Massive amounts of healthcare data are collected every day in Canada, however, our current system is profoundly disconnected. Provinces and communities across the country all operate on disparate healthcare systems that do not communicate with each other. Hospitals and clinics also have standalone data security standards that often prevent the secure sharing of critical information with clinicians outside the hospital walls.
In 2022, we will likely see a push to standardize and connect our healthcare systems to ensure all relevant stakeholders — from doctors to pharmacies to patients — can seamlessly communicate and access critical information. By properly connecting and harnessing data, we can tackle some of the country’s biggest healthcare issues and make tangible improvements to patient care moving forward.
Telemedicine and Virtual Care Here to Stay
Though the mass adoption of virtual care and telemedicine was born of necessity throughout the pandemic, virtual medicine is here to stay. Surveys conducted by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) found that 91 percent of Canadian patients were satisfied using virtual care, with 46 percent stating they prefer a virtual method as a first point of contact with their doctor.
Virtual care is all about convenience – patients can easily connect with a healthcare provider from the comfort of home, saving time and eliminating unnecessary, often risky trips to clinics. Virtual care also enhances healthcare equity for patients in remote areas. Almost one-fifth of Canadians live in rural communities, yet they are served by only 8 percent of practicing physicians in Canada. Enhancing virtual care and telemedicine options helps ensure all Canadians can access treatment when they need it.
In 2022, we expect more healthcare providers to embrace virtual care options, with some fields like therapy and urgent care, adopting a digital-first model, with in-person visits becoming the exception.
More Mental Health Help
Canada had a mental health problem before COVID-19. In any given year, one in five people will experience a mental health problem or illness, but the isolation and economic hardships experienced throughout the pandemic has exacerbated the issue.
Recent findings from a Government of Canada survey on COVID-19 and mental health found that one in four (25 percent) Canadians aged 18 and older screened positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in spring 2021, up from one in five (21 percent) in fall 2020.
The lingering stigma attached to mental health still prevents too many patients from seeking help, however the rise in virtual health solutions could help change that. Virtual mental health solutions remove barriers to treatment for many at-risk patients, including those who might have been hesitant to seek help due to potential privacy issues around visiting a clinic, those who are immunocompromised, have transportation issues and physical disabilities.
A recent MDBriefCase survey also found that mental health is a top issue healthcare providers want to focus on, further supporting the movement to enhance support for Canadians in crisis.
As more patients and practitioners opt for virtual care visits, remote monitoring will also become more prevalent. With remote monitoring, patients receive wearable devices or equipment to keep at home that enables their healthcare providers to monitor their health and wellbeing in real-time.
Remote monitoring equipment can perform a range of functions, from gathering information around quality of sleep, monitoring heart rates, and providing medication reminders. The devices transmit health data to a clinician’s office, where it can be reviewed, compiled and analyzed for trends in a patient’s health.
Remote monitoring is another way to manage healthcare costs and improve health equity by empowering patients and providing equal access to care, no matter their location.
The days of handing your pharmacist a physical prescription from your doctor could soon be gone. With ePrescriptions, healthcare providers can send prescriptions and refills directly to a patient’s pharmacy of choice from an electronic medical record (EMR), eliminating the need to handwrite, fax, or phone it in.
ePrescribing saves time, eliminates errors, reduces fraud, and enhances communication between pharmacists and primary care providers. It also provides important insight into a patient’s medication history which can help prevent potentially serious medication interactions. With 80 percent of Canadians already on board with having their prescriptions sent directly to their pharmacy, we expect the trend to become the method of choice for filling prescriptions.
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