Digital Health – What is it and why it matters 

We are on the cusp of unprecedented change in the way health services are delivered, personalized, accessed, and funded. The rapid growth in connected personal health services, devices, and data is creating opportunities to re-imagine aspects of healthcare access and delivery, personal health and fitness, and health data.   

Digital health technologies provide a host of benefits, including increased efficiency, more equitable access to care, better quality care and outcomes and much more. Digital health can allow us to make better choices about our care by providing us with accurate and complete information about our own health. The increasing amount of data gathered through the proliferation of these tools also offers many opportunities.   

Imagine Citizens Network wants to ensure that citizens have a meaningful voice in shaping this transformation of OUR healthcare system.   

Back in 2019 at the digital health conference we hosted, Partners in the Power of Information Sharing, our collective group of about 500 arrived at the following key questions:  

  • What can we do as citizens, consumers, families, patients, and taxpayers to move our digital health technology priorities along quickly?  
  • How can we ensure a diverse group is engaged so that technological advances are useful to all of us?  
  • How do we address low health literacy and low technology literacy?  
  • What are the privacy concerns in rolling out digital access to medical info?  
  • How do we ensure citizens become custodians of their own health records?  
  • What needs to change in our Canada Health Act and our public health care system to increase innovation, transformation, and information exchange? 

In partnership with Greg’s Wings, we developed a Statement of Principles for Personal Health Information, based on what we heard at our conference. This statement sets out our intentions and serves as a guide to continuously work toward in our healthcare system.  

Citizens want to have a voice to advance their digital health priorities and to shape the healthcare system of the future. They don’t want to be “patient” recipients. If healthcare transformation is to reflect the outcomes that matter to all of us, diverse citizen voices must be heard. Citizens who are relatively disempowered (e.g. by lack of health or digital literacy, or by poor access to digital infrastructure) need help to advocate for their interests and assistance to overcome any digital health barriers. Equity is a significant feature of the digital health evolution.  

The evolution of digital health, interoperability, workflow and policy will support this transformation. It is critical for citizens to be engaged in all conversations so that their needs and expectations are fully understood and the resulting transformation is to a more patient-centered system. Citizens want to be empowered to better manage their health through digitally enabled services and access to their health information. They are ready and willing to be part of the ongoing work to get there. 

December 2022