Virtual Care Allows Physicians to Reach Canadians Outside of the Usual Spaces
Research and Innovations Innovation in Canada’s health system is creating convenience for patients while still maintaining personalization through virtual appointments and information.
Chances are your doctor’s office still uses a fax machine. And it’s no surprise, as technological innovation isn’t usually something associated with our public health system. But according to Scott Livingstone, CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, we are at a turning point where we’re beginning to leverage technology to develop innovative solutions. Innovation in health care leads to better, more accessible care and a more efficient health system for those working in it.
“Recent advances, such as cloud-based technologies, provide us with some exciting opportunities,” says Livingstone. “And there is a willingness among many of our physicians to try new ways to communicate with patients. With the recent amalgamation of 12 health regions into a single province-wide health authority, we are better positioned than ever to scale out these technologies across Saskatchewan and enhance care for our patients.”
Canada’s vast landscape has long posed challenges for the delivery of health care, but the use of smartphones and tablets is bridging the physical divide between patients and health care providers.
Technology bringing us closer together
Technology is solving some of the biggest challenges within health care, including access to treatment and the silos that exist between health care providers. “I have patients travelling two to three hours each way to see me for a 30-minute appointment,” says Dr. Guruswamy Sridhar, a Saskatchewan physician. “But in many cases, this can now be done remotely. Virtual care will save our health system, and the quality of care will be the same or even higher, as access increases and costs are reduced.”
Helping to fuel these bright ideas is a company called Joule, a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association, which helps stimulate physician-led innovation and removes barriers so new concepts can be scaled up and implemented. Physician-lead companies like Innovative Imaging Technologies (IIT) and Cloud DX are just two of the latest examples of innovative solutions in digital health that are fundamentally changing health care in Canada.
“You may go to your doctor’s office for an initial diagnosis, but then we can have a follow-up appointment done remotely at a time that is convenient for you,” says Dr. Yanick Beaulieu, Founder of IIT and creator of Reacts, a collaborative platform with innovative tools, such as augmented reality, for remote virtual guidance and supervision, and training interactive tools designed to suit the collaborative needs of health care professionals and patients. Reacts enables convenient communication between doctors, patients, and teams of health care providers. “People don’t have to take time off work, or drive to the doctor’s office,” he explains. “The system allows for video conferencing, file sharing, and remote teaching for both patients and health care providers.”
Dr. Beaulieu sees the benefit of this technology for people in rural communities, seniors living in cities, and those with mobility issues. “If we inject the right technology, we can see huge benefits and the savings will be significant,” he says. “We are bringing Canada to the next level of virtual care.”
Taking control through empowerment
Driven by a passion for innovation in hospitals, Dr. Sonny Kohli is the Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of Cloud DX. He sees hospitals filled with many people who have conditions that could be better treated in the comfort of their homes. “Already, we can monitor our vital signs at home and send the data in real-time through our phones or tablets to a clinician” he notes. “With this same technology, we will be able to safely monitor patients with heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, so they will only need to come to the hospital when medically necessary, and soon patients will be able to cough into their phones and have it detect respiratory ailments. This is what the future of health care looks like.”
Physician-led innovation often has greater adoption, because they understand the types of solutions that will meet the needs of patients and clinicians. The advances that are being made will provide better outcomes, greater efficiencies, and overall cost savings, for patients and the system itself. And the exciting thing is, we will be able to see the impact right away.