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An Update on the Impact of Technology on Healthcare Delivery

Technology has had a dramatic impact on healthcare administration over the past two years. It has facilitated our healthcare system’s response to Covid-19, particularly, in the provision of healthcare to patients.

On March 11th, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic, which prompted the implementation of various public health restrictions including limited access to medical care and public health services. As a result, many people suffering seemingly non-urgent medical conditions could not access traditional healthcare. Technology allowed for a necessary pivot from in-person to virtual healthcare services.  

Virtual healthcare, provided through technology such as telephone, videoconference, mobile apps and instant messaging, has now become predominant, with over fifty percent of Canadians receiving healthcare virtually.[1] This pivot has advantages. Virtual healthcare can provide more convenient, timely and accessible care, particularly for those with mobility challenges or those who reside in rural or remote areas. Further, of course, it reduces the risk of transmitting Covid-19 and ensures that the healthcare industry continues to operate.

Today, family physicians can be consulted over telephone, counselling services can be provided through mobile apps, and even expert medical assessments can be completed using videoconference. Virtual medical assessments have played a significant role in the legal/insurance industry, ensuring claimants continue to receive the benefits they are entitled to and legal cases are appropriately advanced. Until recently, a medical assessment would involve a claimant attending at a medical facility, which in the reality of Covid-19 is not always possible. Now, many assessments can be conducted from home, provided claimants have access to the necessary equipment, including a webcam or video service and a reliable internet connection.

There remain additional challenges associated with virtual healthcare, despite the advantages it provides us. Like those accessing healthcare services, practitioners and their staff require appropriate equipment and related training to appropriately and efficiently provide care to patients virtually, and many worry about technical glitches. Further, in situations where patients are accessing on-demand virtual healthcare from various providers, a reduction in care continuity can be created. Finally,  there is currently limited legislation that addresses virtual healthcare as lawmakers have struggled to keep pace with the quick-pivot of the healthcare industry. 

Technology has assisted the healthcare system to adapt to the ever changing climate created by Covid-19 and its variants. However, various challenges have arisen, and so the continued role that technology will play in healthcare post-Covid-19 remains to be seen.

This article was written by Personal Injury Lawyers Katharine Creighton and Lisa Fraser and originally written for and published in Hospital News March 2022 Edition.