Seven Emerging Themes in Digital Health for 2019

March 15, 2019 – Mark Casselman, CEO, Digital Health Canada – Keeping a paper notebook in a digital age may seem contradictory, but I still do it. When ideas spring to mind throughout the day I like to capture them on the spot, and the pocket notebook is my preferred medium. However, my trusty notebook might be the only non-digital artifact in a life otherwise enriched by helpful e-tools. Like the majority of Canadians, I rely on my phone, watch, and electronic assistant to help manage my schedule, my home, and my health.

Besides being an avid digital consumer, I am an enthusiastic champion of digital health and the contribution technology and the people who develop it will make to Canadian healthcare transformation. Through discussions with Digital Health Canada members across the country, I am fortunate to learn about interesting developments and challenges as digital health becomes more deeply embedded in our lives and healthcare delivery channels. A recent scan of my notebook highlighted the following key themes for 2019 and beyond:

  1. Ecosystems. We hear this word often, but the truth is we don’t actually have a unified healthcare ecosystem. Instead, we work across a fragmented set of health silos. Within these silos we are very fortunate to have 1000s of passionate healthcare professionals working very hard to deliver quality healthcare to Canadian patients. However, as digital health professionals we must continue work towards a future state that breaks the silos and connects emerging ecosystems that include both traditional (ex: hospitals and electronic health record systems, community and primary care) and new players (ex: insurance companies, workplaces, start-ups) and relies on the trusted sharing and exchange of data, innovations in workflow, and respect for the patient perspective. Fortunately, we are more and more frequently seeing the patient and family caregiver perspective and voice as a part of health ecosystems across Canada.
  2. Digital First.Organizational leaders, government, and healthcare delivery professionals are now seeing things through the digital first lens, a shift in culture that moves digital solutions (telehealth/telemedicine and virtual care) alongside traditional channels (face-to-face or physical presence, where you have to show up for your care) as core elements of a future-focused health system. Organizations will need to figure out how to identify and implement new governance models and management operating systems that will enable digital first innovations in care. One of our CHIEF Executive Forum working groups is putting together a paper defining the steps that Canadian healthcare organizations have taken to systematize innovations across the enterprise and across regions. Results will be discussed at the CHIEF Spring Executive Forum in Toronto on May 24-25, 2019.
  3. Virtual Care. Virtual care (a key component of a digital first approach) is transforming the way we work and innovate. Canadian organizations can learn from one another by sharing innovation success stories and lessons learned on the path to virtual care implementation. This Spring, look for a valuable resource showcasing the virtual care innovation landscape across Canada paired with tangible organization-level implementation considerations from our Virtual Care Community of Action.
  4. AI and Machine Learning. Artificial Intelligence is omnipresent, popping up in every discussion about healthcare data and diagnostics. The concept of AI presents a new way of thinking that challenges the way we work and think about care delivery. Industry leaders are advising a grounded approach that is rooted in the expert understanding of workflow, ethics, and social impact. And, suggest that we remain vigilant about the quality of data used in AI and machine learning applications. For more on this, read A Before B: Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare from the Reports + Whitepapers section of the Resource Library at The CHIEF AI working group behind this paper will be taking a deeper dive into this topic at the upcoming CHIEF Spring Symposium in May, so watch for updates later in 2019.
  5. Consumer Health. With leading tech companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon engaging with the consumer and their health data, we can look forward to more change in this arena, particularly involving voice as an interface tools like Siri and Alexa. In-home digital assistants bringing health and healthcare closer to home will be one of the topics covered at e-Health 2019. Read about the presentations scheduled as part of Innovations to Process Non-Digital Data (Monday, May 27) and Keeping Patients Healthy at Home (Tuesday, May 28) at
  6. Better Access to Health Data. Finding ways to promote open and active sharing of current data is the focus of the CHIEF Executive Forum Data Liberation Working Group, as more health professionals, executives, and patients seek safe, secure access to data needed for AI, machine learning, and research. CHIEF Executive Forum has proposed the development and advocacy of guiding principles and a model for data sharing that respects all data architecture and standards within current and future health ecosystems. The model for data sharing includes the following key elements: public education around data, a shared data charter, collective plan to enable patient access to data, and clearly defined advocacy roles for data sharing and access.The data charter itself defines the common principles, enablers, and outline the value served by the charter in improving innovation and driving efficiency across partner organizations. Results will be discussed at the CHIEF Spring Executive Forum in Toronto on May 24-25, 2019.
  7. Rapid Learning. Professionals today are expected to absorb an ever-increasing amount of information in the form of new industry data, changing partners, and new players arising from mergers and partnerships. Digital Health Canada can help with offerings that combine to enable rapid learning in multiple settings – connecting at events, inspiring in working groups, and educating through online courses — and help digital health professionals succeed.

I look forward to speaking with you at e-Health 2019, or contact me by email. I am interested in hearing your thoughts on digital health in Canada. Keep sharing your notes – in paper or digital form! – on emerging themes that you see from your unique professional lens.