With Canada’s aging population putting an unprecedented amount of pressure on the country’s healthcare system, technology will increasingly play an important role in maintaining and improving access.

According to the 2017 Future Health Index, the second annual global healthcare study commissioned by Royal Philips, an overwhelming number of healthcare professionals and the general public in Canada believe connected care technology is crucial for improving treatment of medical issues (94 per cent and 83 per cent), diagnosis of medical conditions (87 per cent and 82 per cent), and home care services (82 percent and 78 per cent).

Connected care technology includes remote blood and heart monitors, mobile health apps and wearable fitness devices.

“The healthcare challenges we face in Canada are real and imminent,” Iain Burns, CEO of Philips Canada, says in a May 18 press release. “With an aging population, rise in chronic diseases and continually escalating costs, innovative solutions such as connected care technology are crucial to help healthcare providers manage costs while improving patient care and outcomes.”

The most recent Statistics Canada census revealed earlier in May that for the first time ever, seniors made up a bigger share of Canada’s population than children, with the over-65 group making up 16.9 per cent and under-14 hitting the 16.6 per cent mark.

The study shows that majority of Canadians and healthcare professionals (79 and 83 per cent, respectively) believe that having an integrated healthcare system in the country is important, however, only 27 per cent of the public and 21 per cent of professionals think it actually is right now.

“We’re going to see a massive improvement in the healthcare system when healthcare is integrated – from prevention to diagnosis to treatment,” Burns continues.  “That means all the remote monitors, healthcare professionals and medical departments are connected and sharing information and data on an individual’s health. Philips is committed to working with partners like Mackenzie Health in Ontario to create efficiency and put technology in place that can help bridge the information gap and deliver enhanced patient outcomes at lower costs.”

In particular, the Philips study found that Canadians believe connected care can address challenges in at-home healthcare, as only 51 per cent of the general population and 40 per cent of healthcare professionals say Canadians currently have access to resources needed for home care.

“Among the general population, following diagnosis, connected care technologies are seen to be most beneficial to home care (38 per cent). Healthcare professionals believe connected care technology can most benefit home care (60 per cent), as 54 per cent believe that connected care technologies can improve long term management and tracking of health issues as part of home care,” the report says.

Healthcare professionals who took part in this study also pointed out that having accessible, secure information sharing platforms between healthcare professionals is thought to have the most positive impact on Canadians taking care of their health.

“Connected care is critical to effectively manage a person’s health, both inside the hospital and at home,” says Altaf Stationwala, president and CEO of Mackenzie Health, a regional healthcare provider in southwest York Region. “As exemplified in the new Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital, the future of healthcare lies in connected care. Smart hospitals optimize available medical technology and interoperability to share data from one episode of care to another improving clinical outcomes for patients both inside the hospital and within communities.”

Overall, most Canadians trust the country’s healthcare system, with majority of the public (61 per cent) say it meets their needs.

However, despite the interest and enthusiasm in connected care technologies, very few (46 per cent of professionals and 22 per cent of the public) are knowledgeable in connected care technologies, highlighting the fact that to get to a point where connected care technologies are seamlessly integrated into healthcare facilities, more education is needed.

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