Telehealth and Virtual Care: The Next Wave!
By Mark Casselman (@markcasselman)
CEO, COACH: Canada’s Health Informatics Association
Telehealth adoption and use is surging across Canada and in many countries around the world. A form of virtual care delivery, telehealth is bridging gaps between health professionals, improving health service delivery, empowering patients and families, and increasing access to care, particularly in remote and rural communities. Exponential growth seems slow in the early stages, and then seems to explode at a tipping point. Today, there are more people using more virtual care technologies within more innovative care delivery models than ever before. Telehealth and virtual care options are rapidly evolving across Canada – more broadly available and more technologically diverse. Increasingly, mobile health technology is replacing institution-based and desktop-based telehealth endpoints. Virtual care interactions provide greater access to specialized care options from local community and home settings.
COACH: Canada’s Health Informatics Association recently released the 2015 Canadian Telehealth Report (spearheaded by CTF: Canada’s Telehealth Forum) with data demonstrating the strong growth in telehealth across Canada since 2012. For example, clinical sessions jumped by almost 46% to total 411,778 and close to 42% more endpoint delivery locations, 10,351 in total, were documented. Telehealth continues to augment healthcare resources and address the growing gap between demand and capacity. As demonstrated by the report, telehealth and virtual care options are taking on a critical role within health system plans, policies and care processes as an essential method of care delivery.
As we look ahead, the future looks bright – with many opportunities and challenges. Advances in technology hold rich potential for improving access to care, empowering patients and improving outcomes. The report shows significantly more digital devices are being used to deliver care remotely via mobile health (mHealth). However, this constant evolution also means health informatics professionals face a challenging ongoing learning curve. The digital health revolution is bringing many new mHealth and virtual care solutions to the table like never before and we need to look at how to integrate this with telehealth and other elements of healthcare to achieve better health for Canadians.
As the voice of health informatics in Canada, COACH wants to hear your perspectives on addressing the opportunities and challenges related to the future of care delivery. Join the #hcsmca tweet chat on Wednesday, September 23, 2015, from 1–2 pm ET (time zone converter), to discuss questions like:
- T1: From your perspective (pls identify), what are the top priorities in telehealth & virtual care today? Why?
- T2: Where should we be focusing the telehealth & virtual care discussion for the future? What is your vision?
- T3: What is one step that organizations can take to begin the journey to provide more virtual care options? Where do you start?
Resources 2015 Canadian Telehealth Report (Download complimentary copy from this link.)