Pulse Check: Health Care Trends to Watch

Always changing, never boring: Canada’s health care sector, while continuing to face challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic, has at the same time never seen so much opportunity to grow and improve the care patients rely on. Members of the EnterpriseHealth team weigh in on the health care trends, challenges and opportunities they’re keeping an eye on in the months ahead.

Peter Downs, Senior Consultant

As a former health reporter who made the move to communications more than a decade ago, I’m always looking at the biggest health stories of the day through a simple filter – who’s winning? Who’s losing?

Winning means coming across as authentic and honest. Even if the person in the hotseat doesn’t have all the answers, are they at least laying the groundwork to build trust and confidence through their demeanor and what commitments they are making? That’s winning.

Losing means coming across as insincere or deliberately unclear. Does the person sound like they are faking it just to get through the interview in one piece? Does it seem like they’re keeping the real answers to themselves and dishing out a few carefully crafted messages that don’t ring true? That’s losing.

There’s no shortage of big health stories that will be percolating throughout the summer. I’ll be following along closely and keeping an eye on the score.

Nate Clark, Director

It will not be a surprise to any readers that Canada is in the midst of a health labour crisis. Vacancies in the health system have doubled since the start of the pandemic. Key to addressing this crisis is attracting foreign-trained health care workers to Canada. The Liberal government has created various immigration streams that prioritize health care workers with the goal of providing much needed relief to Canada’s health system.

At the same time, Canadians’ opinions on immigration have drastically changed. According to an Environics survey, over 40 per cent of Canadians believe that Canada’s immigration policies have contributed to the housing crisis across the country. The Liberals have committed to holding the number of permanent residents accepted into Canada by 2025 while the Conservatives, who continue to lead in the polls as the next party to win the federal election, have stated that immigration under a Conservative government would be much lower than current levels.

Never has it been more important to monitor the measures governments at all levels take to ensure the workforce exists to meet the rapidly increasing demands of the health system. 

Alexandra Hilkene, Consultant

Preventative health care and how it intersects with AI and wearable technology is really exciting to me. We are increasingly seeing a shift in focus on proactive measures to maintain health and prevent illness, rather than treating diseases after they occur. This trend is enhanced by the integration of AI and wearable technology, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches, that continuously monitor vital signs, physical activity, and other health metrics.

These devices collect vast amounts of data, which AI algorithms analyze to detect patterns and provide personalized health recommendations. For example, AI-powered wearables can alert users to irregular heart rhythms or early symptoms of chronic conditions, prompting them to seek medical advice.

This not only empowers individuals to take control of their health, but also reduces the burden on health care systems by decreasing the incidence of preventable diseases.

Katie Heelis, Vice President

Global and national labour trends have given health care workers more clout than we’ve ever seen before. While COVID-19 exacerbated staffing shortages, these problems have persisted and in many ways are getting only worse. This has resulted in increased health care workforce labour power. The result? Calls for higher wages, improved working conditions and greater bargaining power.

Despite some of these developments, many health care workers are choosing to leave the sector – or not enter the workforce at all. With the preferences of health care workers unlikely to change, the system will need to adapt to secure the workforce necessary to provide the care patients need.

Two solutions can help increase supply: train and upskill more workers and recruit more immigrants with backgrounds in health care, or governments and health care organizations must meet the demands of their workforce with better pay, better benefits, and more flexible ways of working. Organizations will need to get creative and look at what perks will draw the workforce they need.

Carly Bergamini, Director

Across the sector we are seeing many health care organizations grappling with their strategic priorities post-pandemic. COVID-19 derailed many organizations, forcing them to re-evaluate what their future state looks like, specifically when it comes to the care or services they provide patients. In addition, fiscal pressures and ongoing challenges with staffing continue to create challenges.

The result is that many health care organizations are now trying to figure out what’s next and how to reorient and reset their priorities – and what changes are needed to realize it.

Change in health care is often accompanied by a lot of fear and anxiety, particularly when there is a potential – or perceived – impact to services. To be successful, organizations must clearly articulate why change is needed and the consequences of not taking action. They need to set out a clear vision for the future and the direct benefits to patients, and ensure they are leveraging the appropriate channels, messaging and timing for their key stakeholders – from staff to patients, government partners to shareholders.

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