The increasing role of AI as the new backbone of healthcare

A global leader in artificial intelligence (AI), Canada is witnessing a shift in AI’s role in healthcare, accelerated by pandemic experiences and the continued pursuit of efficiency.

AI’s power lies in automating tasks and handling large amounts of data, aiding hospitals, clinics, and researchers. Behind the scenes, AI algorithms rapidly analyse volumes of medical information to identify patterns that may be nearly impossible for humans to see, and use that knowledge to improve diagnosis, treatment, and disease prevention.

When it comes to patient-facing uses, virtual care and AI continue to move together, with AI now a key element of healthcare delivery on virtual platforms. An example is the AI-powered symptom checker behind the TELUS Health MyCare platform, developed with the support of doctors and scientists, which uses over 500 million streams of medical knowledge to assess symptoms and suggest actions. The response users receive isn’t a diagnosis, but rather empowers patients to better understand their options.

Examples like these are just the tip of the iceberg. The exponential growth of AI in healthcare proves its value in supplementing human clinicians, but addressing public concerns about data control is a crucial consideration. Striking the balance will remain a key objective in 2024.

Virtual Care: Boosting awareness in a sector ripe for continued growth


Canada’s healthcare sector is witnessing a shift towards virtual care, driven by increasing wait times for in-person medical appointments and the integration of technology.

For primary care, virtual options have already had a noticeable impact. New research from McMaster University, made public in late November 2023, found that virtual platforms have become an effective way to hold medical appointments, leading to fewer poor patient outcomes, shorter hospitalisations (including a drop in intensive care visits) and less overall need for in-person clinical visits, reducing overall costs and decreasing the load on the public healthcare system.

Beyond physical wellbeing, another significant opportunity has emerged in mental health, where there has been an increasing call for counselling services post-pandemic. As mental health stigma fades, virtual care continues to grow, notably as part of employer benefits packages, where more employers have recognised the value of expanding Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to bolster retention and recruitment efforts.

Regardless of the progress, there remains much learning ahead. Efforts must continue to ensure that patients are properly aware of what services are available to them through virtual platforms, and when virtual care is appropriate (or not). It is a unique challenge ahead for employers, healthcare providers and government across Canada.

Self-sampling: The future of screening for a healthy Canada


The pandemic has demonstrated the ability of healthcare and life sciences companies to find innovative solutions to help populations.

The health crisis prompted the pharmaceutical industry to develop essential screening solutions to support prevention strategies and curb the spread of the virus. We have thus moved from COVID-19 tests carried out by healthcare professionals to home self-sampling.

This new approach has become the norm for protecting ourselves and others. So why not use it to screen for other conditions? Many pharmaceutical and biotech companies are thinking about it.

Faced with the socio-economic, cultural, geographical, ideological—to name but a few—barriers that limit access to screening solutions, the industry is developing new technologies for safe, reliable, confidential, and accessible screening. For example, self-sampling tests to detect the human papillomavirus (HPV)—under the supervision of a healthcare professional—already exist on the market.

Thus, self-sampling is hailed by doctors and patient organizations as a promising practice for a healthier future. In 2024, the development of this method will be one to watch.

Popularizing scientific concepts: The key to successful public affairs in healthcare


In 2024, healthcare will continue to be a topic largely linked to public affairs. Despite the end of the health emergency, several stakeholders will attempt to position their issues in the public arena, monopolizing the channels of communication and public affairs in healthcare.

As public decision-makers generally do not possess in-depth scientific profiles, the secret of successful healthcare public relations will continue to lie in the effective popularization of scientific issues. Indeed, this is one of the major challenges in bridging the gap between the many discoveries made by Canada’s many excellent researchers and the innovation potential that can be derived from these discoveries. This transition is not always automatic, but public decision-makers are showing a growing appetite for innovation, which will provide opportunities in healthcare in the new year.

In Quebec, with Bill 15 now passed, the government will be busy implementing a new governance framework for the healthcare network. The establishment of the Santé Québec agency and the adoption of regulations arising from the bill will undoubtedly attract a great deal of attention in healthcare news.

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Our managing partners share their expertise as they delve into industry trends relevant in their region and across Canada.