2012 report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)
In the Canadian context, the IT enablement of healthcare is a double edged sword: while technology offers great potential for the creation of new levels of patient service, implementation can be a sharp edged lesson in the importance of strategic planning and coordination. The need for more sustainable outcomes in Canadian healthcare is patent. Healthcare costs are high (and expected to rise with the aging of our population), but budgets are decreasing: according to a
, though healthcare costs have doubled over the past decade, spending is expected to increase by 3.4%, a decrease from the average 7% annual increases experienced between 1998 and 2008.
CIHI CEO John Wright attributes this decrease to provincial and territorial government efforts to control costs: “Unlike in the past, they’re not cutting programs as much as looking at improving productivity, reducing overhead, controlling compensation and seeking value-for-money initiatives.” Beyond this budgetary imperative to seek value-for-money, the need to improve efficiencies in the delivery of healthcare is another concern, and one that is especially acute in rural and remote geographies, where sparse hospital coverage and shortages of trained practitioners leave many Canadian communities, particularly in the far north, underserviced.
The productivity benefits associated with IT implementation are well known in many sectors, though in healthcare, the details may be less clear. One area that is drawing increased attention is telehealth, or connected healthcare, where ICT is used to provide remote clinical healthcare (telemedicine) often in emergency situations, to transmit medical imagery and other health informatics data, and to connect healthcare providers for collaboration on diagnostics, for specialist input in clinical situations and for medical education and the sharing of best practices. In these scenarios, ICT is used to provide video telephony, and also to connect medical devices for the M2M sharing of data - either between medical sites or between medical site and patient home - to support real time and advanced diagnostics. ITC plays a key role in these applications, providing specialized applications and server/compute capabilities, and the networking capability needed to connect devices, institutions involved in care and people. In a Healthcare Roundtable last week, Cisco highlighted a number of these use cases with the help of telehealth customers from around the world.