Canadians Want Digital Health Investment. Now is the Time for Hospitals to Deliver.
Many Canadians are deeply proud of our country’s healthcare system and consider it part of the Canadian identity. However, it’s also commonly acknowledged that more work needs to be done to increase health equity, provide better patient experiences and deliver improved health outcomes.
In A Healthy Dialogue, the latest report from Canada Health Infoway, research revealed that Canadians have a strong appetite to leverage digital health technology as a way of responding to these gaps and strengthening our healthcare experience.
In other parts of life, digital technology has transformed the way we live and interact—from how we bank, to how we travel, to how we enjoy entertainment. It’s now time to bring the same convenience, flexibility and experience improvements into Canadian hospitals as we work together to build a modern healthcare system.
A Growing Demand
Compared to peer countries, Canada has been slow to embrace digital health technology. But this isn’t because Canadians aren’t ready to embrace new tools and approaches.
A Healthy Dialogue is the result of an extensive consultation conducted by Canada Health Infoway in 2019-2020. The consultation reached 58,000 Canadians and covered topics including their current use of technology, the benefits they anticipated from using healthcare technology, the barriers they faced in adopting new technologies and their concerns around privacy and security. Given the timing of the project, researchers also adapted it to include questions about the impact of COVID-19 on Canadians’ readiness for digital health investment.
The results of the consultation are overwhelmingly clear: Canadians want digital health investment.
In fact, A Healthy Dialogue found that:
- 90% of Canadians want technology that puts them in greater control of their health. They also want to learn how technology can help them work towards better health outcomes.
- 92% of Canadians want technology that makes healthcare as convenient as other aspects of their lives.
- 84% of Canadians say they would use technology tools to help manage their health.
- 80% of Canadians believe investing in health care technology should be a top government priority.
Current Barriers for Hospitals
Although the demand is clear, it’s not always easy for hospitals to quickly adopt new health technology. In fact, A Healthy Dialogue identifies three categories of barriers that exist, creating challenges for transformation. These barriers are felt by patients, providers and administrators in a variety of ways. In all cases, overcoming them presents powerful opportunities for strengthening the Canadian healthcare system.
1) Systemic barriers
Systemic barriers are those that are faced by “underserved” people in Canada’s healthcare system. This predominantly includes low-income Canadians, those living in rural or remote areas and people who are newcomers to Canada. Prejudice and bias in accessing healthcare can also limit people from accessing digital health tools.
For hospitals working with underserved communities, this can translate into systemic barriers that make it difficult to gain buy-in from patients. Where systemic discrimination has long impacted a community’s experience of accessing healthcare, it may be necessary to rebuild trust and confidence in order to address fears.
More broadly, hospitals face systemic barriers of their own, including policy barriers, procurement challenges, regulatory constraints, and funding issues. The complexity of navigating these challenges can lead to innovation stalling.
2) Technical barriers
Technical barriers for patients might include issues around personal confidence (for example, not knowing what apps to use or lack of confidence in using technology) as well as barriers such as inadequate access to reliable internet.
For hospitals, patients’ discomfort with technology can create difficulties or poor uptake. Problems can also develop in the deployment and use of technology in hospitals. In a separate report, Canada Health Infoway surveyed Canadian nurses about their use of digital health technology to look at benefits and barriers. Technical barriers include:
- Use of multiple systems (e.g., both paper charts and electronic records)
- Lack of integration between systems
- Lack of available equipment
- Inadequate training
- Unreliable network connections
These issues need to be addressed in order to gain the full benefits of new technologies and to avoid creating system redundancies.
3) Privacy concerns
Concerns around privacy are one of the main barriers preventing Canadians from embracing digital health technology, despite comprehensive privacy laws at both the federal and provincial levels. Even when the pandemic meant that millions of Canadians experienced virtual care for perhaps the first time, 74% still identified privacy as a major concern.
A key concern is a potential for data breaches that might compromise health information, such as the LifeLabs hack that occurred in 2019. Hospitals are faced with the challenge of ensuring adequate safeguards are in place to protect confidential data, and communicating to patients the steps they have taken to do so.
The Time for Change is Now
The pandemic has shifted norms when it comes to digital health. Seven in 10 Canadians who sought medical assistance during the pandemic accessed virtual care, and 91% of people who received virtual care were satisfied with the experience. In hospitals, limitations on in-person visits meant that technology provided a necessary way for patients to stay connected to love ones under difficult circumstances.
The pandemic created rapid shifts in how hospitals and healthcare providers deliver care. And while these changes came from necessity, there is now the opportunity to build on this experience and design a digitally-enabled healthcare system for the future. By continuing efforts to overcome barriers, focus on the patient experience and increase patients’ empowerment in their own care, we can improve clinical outcomes and reduce clinicians’ workloads, and enhance Canada’s legacy of excellence in healthcare.
How HealthHub is Helping
At HealthHub, we’ve seen firsthand that health technology has the capability to enhance our healthcare system and the lives of Canadians. As a leading Canadian provider of bedside digital patient engagement solutions, we support a vision of a healthcare system that puts the patient experience at the center in order to improve health outcomes.
Our health tech solution, called myHealthHub, aims to overcome systemic, technical and privacy barriers by providing hospitals with an accessible, scalable and secure patient engagement platform. We’re also committed to working with hospitals and healthcare providers to grow their digital health capacity in ways that are equitable so all Canadians can benefit.
Canadians want digital health investment. Let’s work together to help your hospital deliver.
Ready to learn more? Schedule a free demo of myHealthHub today.