Focusing In on Digital Health: Next Steps
Developing locally driven priorities for digital health advancement
Digital health and virtual care are important parts of the Ontario Health Team model and can be important enablers of integrated care. There has been significant advancement in the field of digital health over the past few years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ve heard from our partners that they’re interested in how technology can help them provide better care to their patients and clients. Many partners are already working hard to implement new digital solutions and have lessons to share with others in the system. Others are looking for support to address challenges they’re experiencing with digital health adoption. Everyone wants to know how their individual efforts are contributing to a cohesive, integrated local system of care for their patients and clients.
The Ottawa Health Team - Équipe Santé Ottawa began a process of identifying OHT-level digital health priorities that speak to opportunities and challenges specific to our local system and allow our partners to work together more effectively to advance the use of technology and the provision of virtual care within our community, in ways that work for our health care providers and their clients.
The first step in this process was conducting a series of focus groups with partner organizations in Spring 2023. Key areas of focus include telemedicine, electronic health records, remote patient monitoring, data privacy, security, and patient engagement tools. The focus groups involved 29 participants, including healthcare professionals, administrators, and technology experts.
During the focus groups, participants highlighted both the potential benefits and challenges of digital health. They acknowledged the advantages, such as improved patient care, efficiency, and increased accessibility to healthcare services. However, challenges included issues with electronic workflows during care transitions, leading to safety concerns and fragmented care. Participants expressed concerns about inadequate long-term investment and unsustainable funding for digital health, along with the need for effective change management and workforce support. Access and equity were also stressed, emphasizing the importance of ensuring accessibility to digital health solutions for all individuals, regardless of their background.
The OHT-ÉSO Digital Health and Information Management Strategic Leadership Team will be reviewing this feedback and using participants’ insights to shape the next steps in the process of developing OHT-level priorities for digital health. Thank you to all of those who joined us for a focus group and we look forward to engaging you in the next steps of this work!