With UWaterloo hosting a series of Fall events exploring healthcare and technology, we invited Arts alumnus, Janine Tatham, to share her professional perspective on how healthcare in Canada will change over the next five to ten years.
Advanced virtual care for population health management
The combination of mobile technology with the wave of consumerization that it brings is disrupting the healthcare industry, putting patients more in control of their own health and healthcare than ever before. In my work, I have the opportunity to see the potential and impact of healthcare technologies first-hand. The most exciting change I anticipate in the next five to ten years is advanced virtual care – the natural extension of high performing healthcare systems in an increasingly digital world.
Through a virtual care platform, people will be able to share information and communicate in real time with their personal circle of care – their healthcare providers, as well as their informal advocates including family and friends – strengthening the trusted relationship between patient and healer.
Sharing information in a person-centered way means increased access to information like health records and test results across providers, and with the patient. This enables more collaborative care across the continuum of care. It means better care, for a lower cost. In our current siloed system, we can’t do that, period!
A virtual care platform will enable people and their circle of care to access:
- Infographic, lay-language education on their condition and treatment – so they are informed, educated, and empowered to make decisions about their own health.
- A personalized care plan that lays out a step-by-step roadmap to health, so they understand how to navigate the healthcare system and what to do in case of adverse events.
- Health coaching to encourage sustainable behaviour change needed to be well, and prevent or manage chronic disease.
The result is an “activated patient” – someone who has the knowledge, skills, and confidence to manage their own health and is empowered to engage in their own health care.
How providers deliver care will change dramatically as well. They’ll be able to assess and triage a population of patients based on things like condition, treatment, risk level, readiness to change, and social determinants of health. This allows them to efficiently manage the "well" populations to keep them healthy, and spend more time with the higher risk individuals who need the additional support. The result is efficiently and effectively managing a population of patients, for improved outcomes.
Payers will be happier too. Intervening at the right time to prevent chronic disease or properly manage it through a virtual care platform will lead to significant cost savings, such as avoiding preventable procedures and fewer hospital admissions and bed days.
What I find really exciting is what will happen beyond 5-10 years from now. Today, we have minimal information on what happens between prescription and outcome – when the patient leaves the doctor’s office, did they take their pill? Did they adhere to their care plan? This is a huge and important gap! Through a virtual care platform, we can collect all of this data – patient-reported outcomes, behavioural data, etc. – and apply machine learning to that data. When we apply machine learning to that data, we gain important insights that allow us to start to tailor each care plan and each prescription to the specifics of each individual patient, for the best possible health outcomes (and better care means lower costs!). That’s called precision medicine, and that’s the future of healthcare that I’m excited about.