Governments Practitioners Public

How COVID-19 Is Reshaping The Canadian Healthcare System

01 Apr 2020

2020 is disrupting, perhaps in some ways transforming, our lives. 

COVID-19 has tested the capacity of the Canadian healthcare system, the speed and effectiveness of our government in handling emergency situations, and the collective resolve of Canadians to listen to public health experts and practice social distancing.

The situation around COVID-19 in Canada is changing rapidly every day. How bad will it be in Ontario? How many more weeks will schools be closed? Will our healthcare system be overwhelmed? These are all questions that will only be answered in the weeks and months to come. 

While a lot of these day-to-day changes that we’re experiencing are short term, it’s without a doubt that this global pandemic will profoundly reshape the Canadian healthcare system in the years to come. 

In this blog, we’ve collected a few key insights from leading medical experts as to how COVID-19 is transforming our healthcare system, including how Accerta is doing its part in flattening our epidemic curve. 

 

COVID-19 In Canada

What began as an outbreak of a new novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China in late 2019, has quickly spread into a global pandemic, declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020.

When infected, COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2, is a respiratory disease that affects different people in different ways. Most infected will develop mild to moderate symptoms that may include: 

  • Fever

  • Tiredness

  • Dry cough

  • Shortness of breath

  • Sore throat 

  • Aches and pains 

Elderly over the age of 60 and those with underlying medical conditions have a higher risk of developing severe symptoms and death.

Source: World Health Organization

In Canada, as of the date of posting, there are a total of 8,548 positive cases across all provinces and territories, excluding Nunavut. While the country is entering a critical stage in its fight against COVID-19, it continues to see a steady rise in it’s epidemic curve. However, Canada’s public health system is prepared. Since the outset of the pandemic, the various public health authorities at all levels of government across the country have been working together to prepare appropriate and adaptable response measures based on science. 

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada

 

Canadian Health Response To COVID-19

Compared to our neighbours to the south, the Canadian response to COVID-19 was swift and backed by the expertise of physicians, scientists, and public health professionals. 

Beginning in early March, provinces and territories quickly began implementing social distancing measures to “flatten the curve”. These measures included:

  • Banning public gatherings of 5 or more 

  • Closing public elementary and high schools indefinitely 

  • Closing all non-essential businesses and public spaces 

  • Advising Canadians to not leave the country unless it’s for essential travel  

  • Implementing travel bans for foreigners entering Canada

  • Limiting travel within Canada for those displaying COVID-19 like symptoms 

  • Asking companies to send their employees home to work, where possible

  • Funding additional COVID-19 research projects, including vaccine and diagnostic studies 


While it is still too early to tell how well these early social distancing policies will affect Canada’s outbreak, we know that these strategies have been proven to work in the past. Namely, during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.


Source

 

Gaps In The Canadian Healthcare System

The first case of COVID-19 in Canada was confirmed by the Public Health Agency of Canada on January 25, 2020. Patient one returned from Wuhan, China and was tested, isolated and hospitalized in Ontario. 

Despite this early initial case, there was a lack of early planning and action from the government until the WHO issued a global health emergency in March. This lack of preparedness translates to a lost opportunity that could have been spent procuring additional supplies, vital equipment and preparing additional ICU beds. 

Shortage of PPE

Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks, face shields, gloves, and medical gowns are mission-critical for health care workers on the frontlines fighting against COVID-19. The current worldwide shortage is endangering health workers worldwide, but industry and local citizens across Canada are stepping up.

Bauer, a hockey equipment maker, repurposed it’s facilities to manufacture medical face shields, and are encouraging other companies to utilize their designs to do the same.

Similarly, medical students across Canada have organized to collect PPE from local salons, clinics, and other businesses that have a supply in order to donate them to hospitals in need.

Shortage of Ventilators 

In the absence of effective drug treatments, ventilators have become lifesaving devices in the fight against COVID-19. And Canada, like most of the world, is in a rush to purchase or manufacture more of these machines. The special legislation passed by the quick parliamentary sitting gave the government the power to take away patents to get vital medical equipment and supplies into production.

Many Canadian companies, including the country’s three largest auto parts makers, are stepping up to manufacture critical life-saving ventilators for hospitals. 

Capacity and Limited ICU beds  

In a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, around 20% of COVID-19 cases in China cases require hospitalization, 5% of cases require the ICU, and around 2.5% require very intensive help, with items such as ventilators. 

Modelling suggests that ICUs may face collapse under the strain of a dramatic spike in cases if social distancing measures are not taken seriously.According to Dr. Anand Kumar, a critical care doctor at Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre, there are currently about 3,200 ICU beds in the country. Doctors may be able to double that by increasing bed capacity by an additional 3,000 beds or maybe 4,000 beds. 

If one-quarter of the Canadian population is infected with COVID-19, that’s roughly 10 million people. If five percent require ICU support that could mean 500,000 people requiring intensive care. Simply put, there aren’t enough beds or ventilators, but luckily the numbers so far show a more optimistic outcome. 

 

How Can Canada Plan For the Next Pandemic?

Despite shortages in personal protective gear, ventilators and the limited number of ICU beds, above all else, this pandemic has exposed the deadly cost of a lack of vision. So what can Canada do to plan for the next pandemic?

1.  Expand the current capacity of ICU beds and ventilators 

Canada has about 10 to 12 ICU beds for every 100,000 people. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada has only half as many ICU beds as the average developed country, despite spending 15% more on health care. 

However, regionally, ICU beds and ventilators vary from province to province. Newfoundland has an impressive 19 beds, with ventilators for every 100,000 people, whereas the governments of British Columbia and Alberta, at the bottom of the ranking, have a rate of seven and eight, respectively. 

We now know that one of the key factors affecting the mortality rate of COVID-19 is the availability of ICU beds and ventilators. Countries whose governments decided to invest in large numbers of ventilators appear to have half the mortality rate of countries that didn’t.

2. Develop a system utilizing big data and analytics for detection and contact tracing

In 2003, when the SARS epidemic spread throughout Asia, Taiwan was one of the most severely affected countries outside of China. After the crisis, the government established a National Health Command Centre and began developing a series of rapid response mechanisms for the next crisis. 

Through early recognition of the crisis, border control, and case identification via mobile health and travel data, Taiwan was able to reassure the public by delivering timely, accurate, and transparent information regarding the evolving epidemic. This strategy of mitigation proved to be successful as cases are low compared to the rest of the world. 

Canada too needs a similar big data approach in order to keep the public informed and track travellers returning to Canada. The current emergency alert system can be used to keep citizens up-to-date in a time of crisis and educate them about mandatory policies. Stricter border measures in place at customs can also help update travellers returning to Canada about the necessary procedures they need to follow. 

3. Plan for the future

Let 2020 be a lesson to public health and government officials that a larger strategic plan is necessary for future pandemics. Early prevention and mitigation are key to controlling an outbreak before it gets too large to contain. 

 

What Accerta Is Doing 

While we are just one company navigating these unprecedented times, Accerta values the health and safety of our employees and community above all else. We are doing our part to flatten the curve by implementing a mandatory work from home policy for all employees, where possible. 

Over the past two years, Accerta has developed a business contingency plan for crises such as COVID-19. We’ve upgraded our technology and infrastructure to support remote working, including laptops for all employees and new phone systems to allow our call center staff to take calls remotely. 

Our internal claims scanning systems allows our staff to continue to process health claims during these critical times, without compromising security and while in the safety of their homes. 

Weekly email updates from our President, CEO and Chief Privacy Officer Peter Owsiany, and internal meetings via conference call keep internal communications open within our company to keep everyone informed about the ongoing situation. 

 

Are You Ready To Digitize Claims Management?

At Accerta, our plan management programs offer digital solutions for governments, social services agencies and healthcare practitioners to effectively manage medical claims submissions for dental care, vision care and other extended health services

More than ever, today’s unprecedented times showcase the importance of digital transformation for organizations, especially in the healthcare sector. Adapting technology will not only improve the healthcare claims process but also speed up processing, enable early detection and reduce administrative time. 

To learn more about how Accerta is transforming the Canadian health care industry, please call us today at 1.800.505.7430, contact us at info@accerta.ca or fill out our contact form and we’ll get back to you. 

We hope everyone stays home and remains safe and healthy.