Canada is moving toward a health-care model in which the patient is at the centre of care. With demographic shifts helping lead to an increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases, patients are taking a bigger role in managing their health and are more actively engaged with health-care systems throughout their lifetime.
At the same time, new digital tools are supporting this increase in patient management and engagement in their health, wellness and wellbeing. For example, they’re helping patients access health information, like diagnostic test results, without ever leaving home. Some of these tools are sponsored by the government, some are privately insured and others are paid for out of pocket.
Consumers are also showing increased interest in health and wellness apps on their personal devices. According to PwC’s Consumer insights survey, 32% of Canadians surveyed said they use a health-care, wellness, fitness or medical app on their smartwatch, smartphone or tablet. That number rose to 37% for those aged 25-34. And nearly half (46%) said they’re somewhat comfortable with accessing health-care products or services from a company with an offering that collates all of their information in one place.
But those tools and products don’t necessarily interact with the health system itself. The increase in chronic disease management and active engagement in health and well-being—along with the overall trend of prioritizing the customer experience—are leading to evolving expectations for an integrated, end-to-end health service experience that reflects personalized health needs.
Increasingly, we see the role of the patients evolving to resemble that of a consumer. At the same time, product vendors and service providers are focusing on removing what people often refer to as friction in the health and wellness experience. All of these changes are leading to what we call the patient-to-consumer (P2C) shift in health care.
32% of Canadians report using a health-care, wellness, fitness or medical app on their smartwatch, smartphone or tablet
P2C means a personalized experience at every touchpoint with health services. An individual might have the following to say about the experience:
"I am able to track my blood pressure remotely, and my care providers have real-time access to my information, which they use to coordinate care and proactively reach out when my results aren’t optimal. I receive alerts when my blood pressure is spiking, which prompts me to take my medication to preserve my kidney function."
To sustain itself and deliver improved outcomes, our public health-care system needs to adapt to Canadians’ evolving behaviours and expectations. Until we reach the P2C vision as an integrated public-private system of health and wellness, we’ll see increased strategic investment in health and well-being through proactive prevention efforts, innovative solutions and integrated delivery models involving private players like retailers, pharmacies and employers. A recent analysis of the future of health projected that global health budgets will grow by 42% between 2018 and 2030. During this time, we expect traditional care and drug budgets to shrink in their overall share as other areas, like digital health, prevention and diagnostics, grow significantly.
The question remains: Who will be responsible for this shift to a truly integrated health system with curated consumer experiences, and how will the private and public sectors continue to work together to improve health outcomes in an equitable manner? To date, we’ve seen several barriers, from funding models to the fragmented nature of health care in Canada, to moving the system forward through the required blend of policy changes and agile approaches.
We believe the barriers are surmountable. Supporting the commercialization of health technology and innovation in Canada, for example, doesn’t have to conflict with the Canada Health Act. The agility and nimbleness of private sector organizations can help accelerate transformation and meet consumer objectives while improving care and access. But the private sector needs to be officially part of the process—not scraping at the edges—to help achieve our health objectives.
Tailoring experiences in the health sector to the P2C model is a big opportunity, so we can expect to see continued investment in both the private and public sectors. But if we want to keep health-care innovation in Canada and deliver on its potential, the public and private sectors must work together with an open mind and a shared set of goals that embrace patients as consumers who vote with their feet, wallet and feedback.