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Virtual health 2.0: A vision for virtual health care in Canada

Look at any industry thriving today and you’ll quickly find organizations that understand the importance of delivering excellent customer experiences. So when it comes to health and wellness, Canadians are looking for increasingly personalized and seamless experiences.

That customer-driven desire for connected experiences is driving transformational change in how health, wellness and betterment services are delivered. Health care is becoming increasingly digital, which poses a challenge and opportunity to make it connected across platforms and providers.

A new status quo is emerging, empowering people to manage their care and turning the traditional business model inside out. And with the support of artificial intelligence (AI), the benefits are boundless, including personalized recommendations, improved costs and better outcomes.

Enter virtual health care

Canadians pride themselves on having one of the best health-care systems in the world. It’s time to explore how to become leaders in virtual health care, too.

Virtual health care levels the playing field, helping everyone access knowledge and services. It includes health-care professionals who collect patient data and deliver care remotely, giving patients and caregivers more transparency (i.e. full visibility of their care plans, clinical histories, authorizations and more) and influence in how, when and where they’re treated. And virtual health goes beyond interactions with physicians, such as visits with chiropractors and therapists as well as interactions with pharmacists and insurance providers. It also includes an abundance of health and wellness apps and mobile monitoring devices.


And Canadians are on board. We’re taking advantage of virtual health services where we can, with seven out of ten saying they would take advantage of virtual doctor visits and one in four having a mobile device that monitors health. But Canadians struggle to make choices without clear guidance from providers and health systems.

We’ve made great progress with virtual health, but it’s time to innovate boldly to create and deliver new value. We need to create an intelligent digital infrastructure where consumers and patients can get more visibility, control and insights.

Virtual innovation and connectivity

Health care is very personal, so everyone’s interactions are going to be unique. As I see it, one of the important aspects of an intelligent virtual health infrastructure is the potential of integrating information across a patient’s entire health network—assembling all of the relevant touchpoints a consumer has related to his or her health, wellness and network.

As it stands, many of our virtual health activities are useful for very specific interactions, such as picking up a prescription or submitting a claim. To exponentially increase adoption in virtual care, we need to be much more personalized. In our recent Global top health industry issues report, we noted there are more than 165,000 mobile health apps available worldwide, but 40% have been downloaded fewer than 5,000 times, which indicates fragmented adoption of apps.


Now imagine taking all those scattered apps, digital records and episodic interactions among physicians and other service provides and bringing them together into one virtual platform. When you have full integration, a health service provider can easily and with permission read your heart rate and access recent medical history to understand recent illnesses or medications taken. So it’s more personalized and centralized, and that drives the virtual interaction with patients or family members through the process.

Of course, there are complexities associated with virtual care, but to me, the real value of virtual care will become when it is more like a personal health record. Similar to a travel profile, except it’s much more meaningful.

And when what you have to offer is more relevant and holistic to the consumer, there will be more adoption.

Using AI to turn data into action

The greatest promise of AI is the promise of a revolution. And Canadians are eagerly anticipating what comes next: more than 60% are excited about the impact AI will have on health care, saying it could prevent illnesses and lead to better care.

So how do we harness the power of the data within this virtual health infrastructure to take personalized health to the next level?

For starters, AI can convert raw data into more informed insights and recommendations. Organizations are connected with technologies like remote monitoring tools and cognitive analytical applications that synthesize vast amounts of information to guide clinical and behavioural treatment decisions. For example, it can support those with chronic conditions to self-manage their conditions, as sophisticated analytics can track, trend and assess patient-provided data, offering prompts and suggest an evolving self-management plan. It’s a patient-centric approach that makes it all possible.

When thinking about the customer experience, are they getting the experiences they expect from other industries? When shopping online, consider how Amazon’s proactive recommendations have changed our buying behaviours. If we could do the same with health and wellness, what would be recommended? And how would it change our behaviour?

For example, there’s the potential for us to have virtual assistants that act as the referee for our health information. These intelligent systems could harness our data and provide personalized recommendations, such as identifying risks, what foods to eat and selecting exercise routines.

But as with any AI-led interaction, the patient must feel secure. To drive adoption and growth in virtual care, we need to continue to strengthen trust, deal with the personal elements of patient consent, feeling safe and making sure there’s a full view of all of our interactions.

The way forward

How can physicians, clinics, hospitals, retailers, insurers—essentially any provider of health and wellness services—help?

  • Include virtual care as a priority in your overall strategy. Consider the multiple ways you can expand your impact.
  • Advise patients/consumers on apps, wearables and other virtual technologies, and explore ways to increase connectivity and collaboration among them.
  • Provide patients/consumers with virtual health options.

Explore some of these implications in more detail in our Global top health industry issues report.

Virtual health 2.0 means intelligent health care anytime, anywhere. And Canadians are ready. To thrive in the digital revolution and create trustworthy customer experiences, we must balance business understanding with technology innovation and human insight.

How is your organization preparing to restructure its people, assets, processes and technology to make way for virtual health solutions?

Contact us

Kai Lakhdar, Ph.D.

Kai Lakhdar, Ph.D.

Health Industries Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 8705

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