Canadians want innovative healthtech, but worry about slow adoption

The majority of Canadians are wanting a more tech-driven healthcare system, but not all of them are confident about Canada’s ability to adopt virtual care, according to a new report from the Canadian Medical Association (CMA).

“We need everyone, including various levels of government, to help our strained medical system overcome many hurdles.”

The report explored various perspectives on healthcare and emerging tech such as AI, virtual care, and patient platforms. The study found that Canadians are divided on whether or not the current health system will improve, but the report found a desire for greater use of health information platforms and an increase in access to virtual care.

“Today, we’ve become accustomed to doing almost everything online. And Canadians are clear: they want the same when it comes to managing their health and their journey through the healthcare system,” said Gigi Osler, CMA president. “We need everyone, including various levels of government, to help our strained medical system overcome many hurdles, from funding to regulations to policies.”

The report found that within the next decade, Canadians expect the healthcare system to catch up to other industries in offering an online experience. From tracking appointments online (79 percent think it is likely to happen), to being able to access and share complete medical history with any doctor or health professional at any time (77 percent) and even booking medical appointments through a robot (72 percent), Canadians believe that by 2029, healthcare will be more open and will have a more positive influence on their lives.

In March, three Canadian medical organizations, including the CMA, launched a task force to examine virtual care technology and how it can improve access and quality of care for patients across the country. This came amid a spike in activity in the virtual care space, which included funding, partnerships, and new offerings. But digital health faces a number of barriers in Canada, particularly due to the issue of who buys the technology.

According to the CMA’s report, the majority of Canadians were concerned about Canada’s ability to adopt virtual care, believing that governments, physicians, and patients have been slow to embrace such technology. However, the report also found that among respondents who think the healthcare system will improve in the next 10 years, the top reason why are, advancing technology or innovation (28 percent), which came out ahead of next highest – more funding, support, policies, attention, or efforts from the government (16 percent).

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On the issue of data, 84 percent of respondents said they were interested in the ability to access all their health information from one platform, and almost three quarters believe access to their complete medical history and the ability to share it with any doctor at any time is likely to happen within 10 years. However, nine in 10 said they should have full ownership of that data, with 95 percent believing they should be the ones approving who gets access.

With the development and rapid pace of new technologies able to collect vast amounts of health information, access to data in healthcare has surfaced as an emerging and significant issue. Access to healthcare data has also become another serious challenge in Canada’s health industry.

“Openness to more connected healthcare comes with concerns, as the majority of Canadians express angst over who will have access to their data, who ultimately owns it, and that it could be used against them in decisions like job applications and insurance,” the report stated. “Canadians want control over their personal health data and believe they should get to approve who receives access to their health data, and that they, not the government or technology platforms, own their health data.”

Image courtesy Akira via Facebook

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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