Guest editorial: Digital health, Part 1: The promise and practice of telehealth in BC

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 59, No. 9, November 2017, page(s) 454 Editorials
Eric Cadesky, MD, CM, Kendall Ho, MD, FRCPC
Dr Eric Cadesky Dr Kendall Ho
Dr Eric Cadesky Dr Kendall Ho

Whether we are talking about telehealth, telemedicine, mHealth, health IT, or virtual health, the digital health technologies used to improve care for patients are affecting physicians’ practices and daily lives. Service delivery, information exchange, population health monitoring, individual and system decision support, and predictive analytics are all examples of how embedded technology has become in health care. The health world is flattening as billions of people use online resources, social media, apps, and wearables to improve and manage their own health. Technology companies are increasingly interested in digital health opportunities and health policymakers are investing in electronic medical record (EMR) platforms and patient portals to improve efficiency and fulfill public demand for access in keeping with the guiding principle of “Nothing about me without me.”[1] So where are health professionals in this rapid digital health revolution? We are, or should be, reminding ourselves that the best technology will allow us to focus on what is most important: our relationships with the people and communities we serve.

Even though all of the early promises of technology-enabled health care have not been fulfilled, and many patient needs remain underserved while input requirements and a lack of data interoperability continue to increase physician workloads, technology can still be expected to overcome geographic boundaries to increase health care access and ease the amount of work for physicians. With 90% of Canada considered rural and remote,[2] our country has become a world leader in health technology that addresses geographic barriers to care. Our province has also become a major centre of innovation.

In this first of a two-part theme issue on digital health, Dr Bruce Hobson explores the recent history and future of electronic medical records, and Dr Travis Holyk and his colleagues relate how telemedicine has improved access to and quality of care in Northern BC.

In the second part of the issue, Dr Kendall Ho and colleagues will describe advances in health apps, sensors, and wearables, while Drs Damon Ramsay and Puneet Seth will discuss the importance of collaborative elements in the electronic record. As well, Mr Michael Bidu will consider the need for health technology entrepreneurs and physicians to work together on digital health products.

We hope that this theme issue will increase awareness of health IT innovation in BC within the medical community, inspire physicians to adopt technology and promote it in their practices, and encourage health professionals to work together to define best practices in digital health care. We also hope that readers will enjoy the articles we have assembled—and that they will do this quickly, since technology advances so rapidly that the content will become obsolete in no time!
—Eric Cadesky, MDCM, CCFP
Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UBC Faculty of Medicine
—Kendall Ho, MD
Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, UBC Faculty of Medicine

This article has been peer reviewed.

References Top

1.    Delbanco T, Berwick D, Boufford JI, et al. Healthcare in a land called PeoplePower: Nothing about me without me. Health Expect 2001;4:144-150.
2.    McIlwraith R, Dyck K. Strengthening rural health. Ottawa: Canadian Psychological Association; 2001.


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