If there was any silver lining to the pandemic years, it was that telemedicine and virtual care became a more common channel for healthcare services. In turn, digital health offers us the biggest opportunity to increase access to care in remote and medically isolated communities, especially impacted by the lack of healthcare resources.

Thanks to emerging technologies and this digital transformation among providers and patients, there is real opportunity to improve the patient experience and help address existing barriers in our healthcare system.

In Canada’s remote areas, access to healthcare resources has been an ongoing and critical challenge. Weather conditions prevent providers from flying in to deliver primary care, while restricting patients from flying out to larger treatment centres. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of dollars are spent for each Medivac and quick travel visit for a diagnostic follow-up. Add to that the shortage of healthcare providers and lack of synergy between hospitals/facilities—and escalating healthcare costs and compromised patient care are the results.

But we’re on the precipice of positive change, with potential digital solutions to bridge healthcare gaps. For one, the federal government is making high-speed bandwidth a priority in building an undersea fibre optics cable route between northern Labrador and Iqaluit for completion by 2025. There are also affordable satellite-based services now available to residential customers in northern communities throughout the country.

Video consultations are allowing community and on-call emergency staff to connect more easily to determine if patients need to be sent out by Medivac. Devices are becoming smaller and more economical so data gathering can be brought right to the patient’s bedside. Clinical decision support applications, now imbedded with artificial intelligence, also facilitate decision-making in a local health setting. All of this ties into better data integration and patient-centred case management to help improve healthcare processes and eliminate information silos.

Beyond remote communities on earth, these technological advances can be applied to space medicine too, where astronauts face similar care challenges. Pre-mission medical training, as well as a clinical decision-support knowledge base supported by digital health, can enable astronaut self-care and better flight crew support.

Along with a standardized, plug-and-play digital health platform, Calian has a team of educators and multi-media content creators to support healthcare education development and delivery, as well as healthcare providers experienced in mentoring and supporting those in the community.

With the technology, expertise and people in place to power the future of virtual care, we can better support our remote communities and improve healthcare for Canadians living in these areas.

Watch the video: Bridging the Healthcare Gaps in Remote Communities

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