We are people before we are patients. The case for more humanity in Canadian healthcare.

Canadian governments are currently making several decisions about how healthcare will evolve into the future.

We are on the cusp of a major digital revolution; COVID-19 has emerged as the ultimate technology disruptor, illustrated by the speed of transition from physical to virtual health consultations.

Technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, augmenting technologies, digital-twinning, and wearables, which were all emerging pre-COVID, are now primed for exponential growth, fuelled in part by the same global healthcare realities that propelled vaccines swiftly through the usual red tape.

As we seek to improve the overall health of our population, decisions will be made to improve our patient experience, to create better efficiencies and reduced costs.

But, will we go far enough? Will we achieve our ultimate goals of improving the health of our communities, transforming the business of healthcare to one that supports the true diversity of our society?

To do so, our healthcare must evolve by embracing a greater humanity.

We must not define healthcare just through consumerism or the narrow lens of being a patient.  A patient is a temporary situation. We are people first and  healthcare should be what assists us in living our best lives.

As we navigate a complex world of unintended consequences, what choices should we make as we move toward a more data-driven, human-centric, public-private partnership to drive needed changes? What decisions should we make as we move toward greater healthcare interoperability? What directives are needed as we build out a more connected, integrated health ecosystem that is humane and leaves no one behind?

COVID-19 has also exacerbated the wide-spread inequities in our society,  exposing the fragilities of our system. Now, more than ever, we need to address the social determinants of health – those circumstances outside of healthcare which either nurture or impair our population.

We need to ensure that the voices of remote, racialized, and other marginalized communities are represented and heard. The future must be approached with a more empathetic, humanistic, inclusive, and equitable mindset.

We need to think holistically about our health, shifting our focus from cure to prevention and early intervention, and develop a new healthcare ecosystem, one which is truly connected to all aspects of our behavioural health (mental, sexual, and physical) across our lifespan.

We need to stop treating aging as a clinical problem and re-examine how we support our aging population; allowing them to live, and die, in their own homes rather than in long-term care facilities.

We need to shift our focus from cost reduction economics and redirect it to strategic investments in healthcare that, if made correctly, will pay dividends down the road for everyone.

We need to make sure that if we are empowering people to holistically manage their health, that they are indeed able to do so. This includes bridging the digital divide and delivering health literacy and educational programs that are accessible to all. We need to design solutions around what people and communities really need.

This is where we, as healthcare business and technology innovators, have the opportunity to do more. While modernizing our healthcare infrastructure and the delivery of services, it is imperative that we recognize where, who and how our tools are accessed to ensure barriers to services no longer exist.

As we contemplate the future of healthcare, we embrace our past. Tegria’s foundation is descended from Quebec’s Sisters of Providence whose founder, Sister Emilie Gamelin said, “…we are steadfast in serving all, especially those who are poor and vulnerable.” This past year has shown us the vulnerabilities, now is the time to be steadfast in our humanity.

About Steven Wilson, CEO/Managing Director of Tegria Canada
Steven Wilson is the CEO and Managing Director of Tegria Canada. Wilson has held leadership roles at TELUS, Canada Life, Info-Tech Research Group, and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. He brings a strong track record of success in business and technology strategy across a broad range of industries that include pharmaceutical, banking, insurance, and the public sector.