And there’s a lot to celebrate! We’ve made more progress in digital health over the last year than we have in the last decade. Since the beginning of 2021, 40 per cent of patient visits have been virtual, more than double the percentage pre-pandemic. The unprecedented adoption of virtual care that occurred during the pandemic has long term benefits, including time and cost savings, increased convenience and health system efficiency, and even reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Another great example of digital health progress is the COVID-19 Rapid Response projects that Infoway, Health Canada and the jurisdictions initiated shortly after the pandemic was declared. The provinces and territories came together and quickly achieved consensus around the most pressing needs to address the pandemic: ensuring that clinicians could practice virtually, making COVID-19 test results available to citizens and expanding the capacity to provide e-mental health services. Projects were deployed in every province and territory, and operational within 30 days of their respective approvals. The impact? By March 2021, 3.5 million Canadians and 91,000 providers logged more than five million uses of virtual care. And these solutions will continue to provide better access and improved outcomes.
Another reason to celebrate is that now, more than ever, Canadians have seen the benefits of digital health and are embracing it as a viable mode of care delivery. Over 70 per cent of Canadians reported having a virtual encounter in the last year. Survey data also reveals that 91 per cent of Canadians were satisfied with the care they received through a virtual visit and most report saving time and money as a result.
This year’s Digital Health Week closely follows the recent launch of the Digital Health Learning Program. Infoway launched this program in October to address equity gaps and improve the digital health literacy of patients, families and caregivers by providing resources and education to improve their awareness, understanding and ability to access virtual care. A variety of informative resources provide answers to general questions about virtual care, and privacy, security and health data access — they also identify ways that Canadians can proactively manage their health.
This is only a small sampling of this year’s activities and I strongly encourage you to join the celebration. Follow the #HCLDR hashtag and @Infoway on Twitter to join a tweet chat about digital health literacy tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET. We also hope to see you at Infoway’s Partnership Conference on December 1 (registration is complementary). Remember to use the hashtag #ThinkDigitalhHealth in your social media posts and explore our toolkit to learn about other great ways to participate.
Canada has come a long way in accelerating the adoption of digital health. We hope this week’s celebrations provide inspiration to continue that work well into the future.
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