Happy New Year! As we kick off this new decade, I am energized to see Women’s College Hospital deliver on our strategy in ways that disrupt, innovate and transform healthcare .
Digital transformation is happening across every sector of our economy, and all around us in the world of health care. It should mean that over time, more preventative, ambulatory acute care and chronic care will be delivered virtually “at home”, outside of the regular workday, by what is likely to be a more diverse set of providers. Emerging technologies will advance patient and provider convenience, experience and outcomes. And artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics will continue to enable healthcare breakthroughs. It’s predicted that over the next decade millions of emergency department visits will be reduced thanks to AI-enhanced virtual care. The speed at which healthcare technology is evolving is staggering and we are starting to see innovations that we thought were decades away already becoming realities.
With our launch of Women’s Virtual – Canada’s first virtual hospital – WCH is poised to lead this next generation of connected, collaborative and integrated healthcare platforms. Women’s Virtual will allow us to treat and care for patients in the setting most appropriate for them by integrating digital health tools - like e-consultation, online peer support groups, curated apps for the self-management of chronic disease and video visits - into WCH’s existing clinical areas. This will enable us to enhance our health services and ensure that patients get care in whichever way best addresses their needs, while at the same time enhancing the provider experience. Imagine a model of care where if a patient is invited to come in for a traditional in-person appointment, it’s because a face-to-face visit is the best way to address that person’s issue or concern. We will have an array of alternatives that can improve both access to care and integration of care.
One of the reasons we are so well-positioned to do this at WCH is our academic expertise in digital care. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has designated WIHV (Women’s College Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care) as the secretariat of the provincial Centre for Digital Health Evaluation (CDHE) with a mandate to evaluate new healthcare technologies to revolutionize care. In this role, Women’s College is well positioned at the forefront of digital health transformation in Ontario, partnering with organizations in the broader public and private sectors to test, evaluate and spread innovative models and tools across the province. Our staff, clinicians and scientists at WIHV and WCRI are experts in “what works” – and what doesn’t – when it comes to digital tools and virtual care. All that expertise is being channeled into the design of the Virtual Hospital. And all our staff, clinicians and patients will be invited to participate as Women’s Virtual starts to roll out in the coming months.
As these innovations mature and evolve they will help our providers offer better care to all. The ethos of our organization remains grounded in health equity and as we move forward, these game-changing ideas and technologies must help us address gaps in care for underserved and poorly served populations. This will require that we forge new and robust alliances with community, health organizations and industry to advance innovation in ways that keep equity top of mind. It has been predicted that half of all healthcare delivery organizations will ally with organizations like Google, Apple and Amazon in their clinical diagnostic and treatment processes over the next decade. We must always ask to what end? At WCH the endgame will require improved healthcare and technologies that benefit high-needs and marginalized individuals and communities.
A new Integrated Care for Vulnerable/Marginalized Women Network coordinated by WCH is one example of how our strategy lends itself to this blending of equity and innovation. This model brings together 18 partner healthcare organizations and community partners. We share the aim of creating integrated services and improving access for marginalized women across the GTA, and we are committed to collaborating and working more closely together so that services for those women will not feel as fragmented as they have. The partners in this Network will focus on improving healthcare pathways to and from shelters to reduce unnecessary emergency department visits, avoid premature discharge from care and consider how the social determinants of health, like housing, employment, gender and race, impact health and wellness. I’m incredibly proud of our role in the city in which we are challenged to shift our thinking and our services in ways that meaningfully address gaps in care related to sex, gender and the broader social determinants of health.
Healthcare in the 2020s will evolve at a staggering pace. Women’s College Hospital will radically reshape and modernize the delivery of health care in Canada for a healthier and more equitable world.