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Digital health: Transforming care and adding value

By Lee Fairclough

This week is Digital Health Week, a yearly acknowledgement of the transformative power of digital health technologies to support the delivery of health care.

That such a transformation is desired by patients and caregivers is not in doubt. Canada Health Infoway notes that 80% of patients want access to their own records and other digital health solutions. This enthusiasm was confirmed recently in a survey commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association which found:

  • Three-quarters of Canadians would like to see more technology as part of the health care system
  • 7 in 10 Canadians would take advantage of virtual physician visits and many believe that it would lead to more timely care, convenience and overall care.
  • Over half (56%) would likely wear a mobile device that monitored their health continuously.

Despite these figures, digital care has been relatively slow in coming to Ontario and the rest of Canada for a variety of reasons related to the challenges of putting the proper infrastructure in place, privacy and security concerns and some resistance from health care providers and patients.

Health Care Built on Relationships

Dr. Joshua Tepper

Relationships are the bedrock upon which our health care system is built.

Nowhere was this described with more eloquence than at the recent Health Quality Transformation (HQT) conference in Toronto, where keynote speakers Dr. Don Berwick and Kim Katrin Milan both addressed this issue from very different perspectives.

Getting from Situational to System-wide Quality

Variations in care received by Ontario residents, based on where they live or certain demographic factors, can indicate a lack of quality in a health care system.

The recent report prepared for Health Quality Ontario titled Quality Matters: Realizing Excellent Care for All acknowledges the existence of unwarranted variations in care and the negative impact they can have on patients. This was also a key theme in last year’s Measuring Up report from Health Quality Ontario which noted that, while Ontario was generally doing a good job of providing care to all who needed it, “unacceptable variation” still existed by geography and population groups.

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