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Iain Burns is president and CEO of Philips Canada.

With a rising senior population in Canada – now outnumbering children for the first time – there is more pressure on the health-care system than ever before.

If this new era of connected health care is to be truly effective to improve recovery times, reduce health-care spending and help reshape the way we deliver care, both health-care professionals and Canadians must work collaboratively.

As has been demonstrated by other industries' digital revolutions – such as in banking, energy and online retail – consumers want greater influence over how they interact with organizations, especially when it comes to sharing personal information.

But there is a great starting point; people in 19 countries around the globe surveyed in the Future Health Index 2017 research said they trusted the health-care industry the most with their personal data.

The basis for secure and responsible data sharing lies in integration of health systems. One seasoned Canadian oncologist told us: "Connected health can save time and money. When it's connected, access to anything would be possible. If it's under one umbrella, privacy would be secured to a maximum. But if it's not in one system, with many parties, then the data and information can be harder to control."

Many contributors to the Future Health Index said medical systems need to integrate to facilitate the sharing of complex sets of data between doctors and patients.

To health-care professionals, accessible, secure information-sharing platforms will have the most positive impact on Canadians for taking care of their health. However, the responsibility of making these records sharable is murky at best.

Despite 57 per cent of health-care professionals believing the responsibility currently lies with them, only 22 per cent believe it should, and just 13 per cent of the general population feels complete ownership of their medical records.

It is encouraging to see that data sharing between patients and health-care professionals is already somewhat routine. Certain groups of the population are more likely to use connected-care technology.

Respondents with cardiology issues were more likely to use connected-care technology, such as health monitors; however, qualitative research shows that cardiologists in Canada may reject data collected from connected-care technologies as they are often believed to be inaccurately collected or reported.

With this in mind, more robust policies and platforms need to be put in place. The greater trust people have in the way their data is handled, the more confident they will be of sharing it with health-care professionals.

"There's so much fragmentation in health care," an expert told us. "Legacy systems weren't built to speak to each other. The adoption of technology has to take place universally for change to begin."

Connected-care technology, including secure sharing of patient data between health-care professionals and hospitals, is seen as important to improving care across the full health-care continuum, according to survey respondents.

In particular, health-care professionals and the general public put an overwhelming importance on it for improving treatment of medical issues (94 per cent and 83 per cent, respectively), diagnosis of medical conditions (87 per cent and 82 per cent) and home-care services (82 per cent and 78 per cent).

With this level of interest from both Canadians and health-care professionals, patients could be more easily encouraged to actively monitor and manage their own health outside of a formal health-care infrastructure, empowering them to engage in more meaningful relationships with health-care professionals when needed.

Recording, assessing and using data more effectively can be an early diagnosis tool for people and health-care professionals, preventing conditions from occurring or worsening.

The key to making the most of these metrics is to share it more effectively, securely and responsibly – through collaboration with partners who can make such seamless connectivity a reality.

Health Minister Jane Philpott says the Liberals have put health care and skills development measures in place to accommodate an aging population. Census figures released Wednesday show a fast-rising proportion of seniors in Canada.

The Canadian Press

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