Google Gen­er­a­tion’s push for more tech­nol­ogy trans­form­ing health care: sur­vey


Dig­i­tally savvy Cana­di­ans who make up the Google Gen­er­a­tion are on the lead­ing edge of a trans­for­ma­tion in the health­care sys­tem that will see a greater re­liance on tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing how doc­tors in­ter­act with their patients, a sur­vey com­mis­sioned by the Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion sug­gests.

The Ip­sos sur­vey, re­leased Tues­day, shows that young adults aged 18 to 34 are fre­quent users of the health-care sys­tem, re­port­ing an av­er­age of at least 11 vis­its to a physi­cian each year, as well as be­ing the most ea­ger adopters of tech­nol­ogy to man­age their own health.

“I think this gen­er­a­tion that they’re call­ing the Google Gen­er­a­tion is al­ready very com­fort­able with tech­nol­ogy,” Dr. Gigi Osler, in­com­ing pres­i­dent of the 85,000-mem­ber CMA, said from Win­nipeg.

“They have grown up with it, they’ve grown up us­ing it and hence are more com­fort­able see­ing more tech­nol­ogy in the health-care sys­tem, more tech­nol­ogy use as part of their own per­sonal health care,” said Osler, an ear, nose and throat spe­cial­ist.

“They’re about well­ness care, not just sick care.”

The sur­vey found re­spon­dents among the Google Gen­er­a­tion would be more likely to take ad­van­tage of vir­tual doc­tor vis­its - 47 per cent would opt for at least half of their vis­its be­ing vir­tual, com­pared to 38 per cent of those aged 35 to 54 and 31 per cent of those 55-plus.

These young adults are more likely than Cana­di­ans in the older age brack­ets to use wear­able tech­nol­ogy such as Fit­Bits or to use on­line apps to mon­i­tor their health sta­tus - 44 per cent com­pared to 28 per cent and 14 per cent for the other age groups, re­spec­tively.

“They’re look­ing at how to be bet­ter in­formed about how to stay healthy and if they do get sick, how to get bet­ter,” said Philip Edgcumbe, an MD-PhD stu­dent at the University of Bri­tish Columbia and a con­sul­tant on tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion in health care.

“And this is be­cause the whole land­scape of health care is chang­ing as a re­sult of the de­vel­op­ment of the in­ter­net and the mo­bile phone,” Edgcumbe, 29, said from Van­cou­ver.

“The bot­tom line is the Google Gen­er­a­tion is on the lead­ing edge of this trans­for­ma­tion into newly em­pow­ered patients and health-lit­er­ate patients.”

That’s not to say that mid­dle-aged and older Cana­di­ans don’t ap­pre­ci­ate the ben­e­fits that tech­nol­ogy could bring to health care, the sur­vey sug­gests.

Over­all, seven in 10 re­spon­dents said they would take ad­van­tage of vir­tual physi­cian vis­its, with many be­liev­ing they would be more con­ve­nient as well as lead­ing to more timely and bet­ter care.

About half of all re­spon­dents said they would likely wear a mo­bile de­vice that would con­tin­u­ously mon­i­tor their health, keep­ing track of such vi­tals as blood pres­sure and heart rate, de­tect the pres­ence of tox­ins in the en­vi­ron­ment and cre­ate a per­sonal warn­ing sys­tem when health mea­sures are out of the nor­mal range.

Roughly 70 per cent agreed that in­cor­po­rat­ing more tech­nol­ogy into per­sonal health care could pre­vent ill­nesses and 64 per cent said that given a choice, they would go to a physi­cian who in­cor­po­rates more tech­nol­ogy into their prac­tice.

And while 60 per cent said they were ex­cited about the po­ten­tial of artificial in­tel­li­gence (AI) in the de­liv­ery of health care, they would only trust a di­ag­no­sis if it was pro­vided by a doc­tor.

De­spite sup­port for AI and tech­nol­ogy in gen­eral, roughly two-thirds of re­spon­dents were con­cerned about pri­vacy and pro­tec­tion of per­sonal health data.

About the same pro­por­tion were wor­ried about the po­ten­tial loss of hu­man touch and com­pas­sion as a re­sult of AI and the dig­i­ti­za­tion of heath­care de­liv­ery and the ac­cu­racy of di­ag­noses.

“We’re also ex­cited, happy to see that de­spite this will­ing­ness to adopt tech­nol­ogy, they don’t want to lose the hu­man con­nec­tion, they don’t want to lose that per­sonal touch as well,” said Osler, who will be in­ducted as the 2018-19 pres­i­dent dur­ing the CMA’s an­nual meet­ing in Win­nipeg next week.

The first two days of that meet­ing will be ded­i­cated to a health sum­mit, which will in­clude dis­cus­sions about how to in­cor­po­rate in­no­va­tions in tech­nol­ogy to im­prove health­care de­liv­ery, said Osler.

“And I see it re­ally as a need for in­vest­ment and scal­ing up the health-care tech­nol­ogy across Canada, not just lit­tle is­lands and lit­tle si­los,” she said.

The Ip­sos In­ter­net sur­vey of 2,003 Cana­di­ans aged 18 and older was con­ducted May 16-18 and has a plus-mi­nus 2.5 per­cent­age point cred­i­bil­ity in­ter­val 95 per cent of the time.


Dr. Gigi Osler is seen in an un­dated hand­out photo. A Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion-com­mis­sioned sur­vey sug­gests that dig­i­tally-savvy Cana­di­ans who make up the Google Gen­er­a­tion are on the lead­ing edge of a trans­for­ma­tion in the health-care sys­tem that will see a greater re­liance on tech­nol­ogy.

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