Pan-Canadian Collaboration as a Key Driver for Health System Change

The COVID-19 pandemic changed Canadian health care almost overnight. The need to contain the virus’ spread — while maintaining access to health services — prompted the swift deployment of virtual care tools and services. Immediately after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, Canada Health Infoway (Infoway), Health Canada and the provinces and territories began working together to help provide urgently needed programs and services that could have immediate impact as well as continued value post-pandemic. Infoway established a Rapid Response to COVID-19 fund by reallocating $35 million of its existing funds. The program resulted in 17 projects being launched across all jurisdictions, in four focus areas: virtual visits, e-mental health, remote patient monitoring and access to COVID-19 test results. 

The Rapid Response to COVID-19 initiative demonstrates how aligned priorities and strong collaboration acted as drivers for the rapid identification and deployment of virtual services. As of March 31, 2021, 3.5 million Canadians and more than 91,000 health care providers had logged more than five million uses of virtual care solutions as a result of these investment projects. This paper will examine the factors that impacted the Rapid Response program’s success, key learnings and next steps.