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After a Breakout Year for Digital Health, What’s Next?

Posted on November 16, 2020 by Suzanne McGurn

This week, I’m proud to join Canadian health system leaders in celebrating Digital Health Week — a time to recognize how digital health is transforming the delivery of care.

When I think of the changes brought about by this pandemic, the “overnight” shift to virtual care stands out as among the most significant for Canadians. And although we’ve been talking about digital health for more than a decade, I believe we’re in the early stages of grasping its impact on patients, health care providers, policy-makers, regulators, public payers, and health technology assessment agencies.

Supporting Evidence-Informed Digital Innovation

While it’s clear we need to keep up the momentum on virtual care, there are hurdles to overcome. We need to think carefully about issues like quality, equity, effectiveness, cost, and integration. In our current fiscal reality, decision-makers should rely on systematic assessments of the evidence to help them understand trade-offs and how to scale and spread digital innovation that has been proven to work.

In this area, CADTH is collaborating with its peer organizations (known as the “pan-Canadian health organizations”) to deliver evidence and advice on some practical questions. What are the most successful models for implementing virtual care? Where and for whom is virtual care most clinically and cost-effective? And as it expands, who is at risk of being left behind?

We must also acknowledge that generating and assessing evidence for digital health interventions isn’t easy. There are gaps in our methodologies but also opportunities to partner with stakeholders and become more agile in how we evaluate the evidence.

Lessons Learned, Challenges Ahead

COVID-19 has accelerated digital health in different ways across Canada and these diverse approaches give us the opportunity to learn from each other.

To mark Digital Health Week, we’re hosting a webinar on November 19th with three experts who are intimately involved in the shift to virtual care. These leaders will share lessons learned from personal experience and insight on the challenges ahead (register here):

COVID-19 and the Surge in Virtual Care: Lessons Learned and Challenges to Come

  • Dr. Ann Collins, President, Canadian Medical Association
  • Dr. Robert Halpenny, Chair, Medical Services Commission, British Columbia
  • Mari Teitelbaum, Vice-President of Strategy, Quality and Family Partnership and Chief Innovation Officer, CHEO
  • Chris Kamel, Director, HTA and Rapid Response, CADTH (Moderator)

For a primer on understanding the enablers needed to continue offering virtual care effectively as a standard form of health care delivery, I encourage you to scan our policy analysis on Enablers for Virtual Visits. You can also visit our dedicated evidence bundle for all our reports and tools related to digital health.

And for more on what’s happening across Canada during Digital Health Week, visit Canada Health Infoway and follow #ThinkDigitalHealth across your preferred social platforms.

About CADTH

CADTH is an independent, not-for-profit agency funded by Canadian federal, provincial, and territorial governments (except Quebec) to provide credible, impartial advice and evidence-based information about the effectiveness of drugs and other health technologies to Canadian health care decision-makers.

Have a comment about this post? We’d love to hear from you.


Suzanne McGurnSuzanne McGurn, President and CEO, CADTH

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