Digital Transformation Officer, SE Health
In 2014, one in seven Canadians was over the age of 65. By 2036, Statistics Canada predicts that life expectancy for women will be 86.2 years (84.2 today) while for men it will be 82.9 years (80 today). Much of this increase can be attributed to advances in health care. Canadians are living longer because we have better health treatments and better access to care.
However, these demographic changes pose unprecedented challenges for our already strained health system. Waitlists for long-term care will continue to grow and hospitals will be even more overcrowded. Those are just two of the casualties on a system that is fighting to keep up with the increasing needs of patients as resources are stretched ever tighter.
This is not an easy problem to solve but it must be a priority. It affects everyone – individual Canadians, their extended families, health service providers, organizations, policymakers and the health system as a whole. There is no one solution that can fix it all, but just as technology has transformed many other aspects of modern life, it does have the potential to do the same for health care by increasing efficiency, convenience and quality.
With technology, new service models can be designed to enable health care providers to do many of the things that have been conventionally done in a hospital or clinic setting in an individual’s home. We believe this “feeling of Home when it comes to care” is a growing desire among older-adult patients and their families. SE Health has been a proponent of this movement for more than 150 years and understands the critical role technology plays in realizing it. Technologies support new care models in many ways, such as remote monitoring of biometrics with wearables, virtual care delivery, use of sensors to monitor changes in daily activities, voice-enabled digital assistants to do wellness checks or medication reminders, and shared care plans enabling personalized and interactive care.
When we use digital tools across the continuum of care, multi-disciplined teams can share information and seamlessly work together. Patients are truly at the centre of their health care. This is at the heart of the ACCESS 2022 movement, Canada Health Infoway’s bold movement to promote a future where all Canadians have access to their personal health information and to digitally-enabled health services anytime, anywhere, from the device of their choice. This access will empower patients, maximize the use of scarce health human resources and improve health outcomes.
When it comes to technology another key area is connecting different systems. At SE Health, the concept we use is “frictionless integration.” It means reducing digital friction by streamlining data access methods, and focusing on open data solutions that make integration with partners up and downstream easier, while retaining high levels of security. These aren’t new technologies per se, but they have been refined to have the high level of humanity that patients need.
Another often overlooked advantage to incorporating more technology is its effect on the experience of care providers. They can be more efficient once we equip them with the right information at the right time to better support informed decisions, and ultimately provide better quality care to patients. The key to success is to think holistically across the whole ecosystem and ultimately offer a streamlined experience for patients, families and health service providers.
Our approach to health care must evolve to serve the rapidly changing Canadian population. So much is possible when we look at solving problems with different thinking and creative solutions instead of more and more of the same. Digital can be the catalyst that ushers in a new age of health care for the aging population; let’s get started for a better future for Canadians.
Arslan Idrees is Digital Transformation Officer of SE Health, a national social enterprise bringing excellence and innovation to home care, seniors’ lifestyle and family caregiving to forever impact how people live and age at home.