Healthcare will once again be a central topic in 2022. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate the headlines, it is causing a multitude of collateral effects across our health systems, which are also likely to emerge as key themes this year.
Here are the trends our healthcare communications experts see for 2022:
Health data: Information Holy Grail
With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed a frantic race for government decision makers to have daily access to health data which is de-identified and secure. Why the rush? Obtaining regular status reports means better monitoring of the evolving pandemic and its scenarios, and validation of decisions.
This data has great significance in terms of the relationship between organizations and institutions with the media. Since March 2020, journalists have been actively hunting for data to report on how the pandemic is evolving by letting the numbers do the talking. It is thus paramount to such organizations to have access to the data, so they can provide their own interpretive statement.
Moreover, how data is issued is also becoming more important for patients. Last December, the Government of Québec introduced Bill 19 on the management of health and social services information. It aims to securely interconnect and optimize multiple health databases to improve access to patient data throughout the patient’s care path.
Sylvie Tessier, Vice-President, Healthcare, NATIONAL Montreal
The private versus public healthcare debate continues with the re-emergence of delayed policies
With the current surge of the highly contagious Omicron variant, many critical healthcare services continue to be delayed and altered including paramedic services and non-essential surgeries. At present, it’s not feeling much different than 2020. However, as we emerge from high daily COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations in the coming months, governments will turn attention back to significantly delayed healthcare policy implementations that have been on hold for the last few years.
Two of the most significant include national pharmacare and pharmaceutical drug pricing, currently mandated by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board. While the federal government promised to implement universal pharmacare during the 2019 election, and drug pricing policy changes have been delayed four times and counting, the topics have largely been on hold since the pandemic.
While we expect these topics to re-emerge during the eventual endemic, day-to-day strains on the federal and provincial healthcare systems have risen to the top of the priority list: improvements to long-term care, future healthcare capacity challenges and mental health resourcing. With each of these pressing topics, the private versus public healthcare debate has never been more topical—or future-focused.
Jennifer McCormack, Vice-President, Healthcare, NATIONAL Toronto
Healthcare recruitment and retention requires urgent and collaborative approach
The healthcare industry—already stretched pre-pandemic—is struggling to respond to staffing shortages, with increasing numbers of professionals isolating, experiencing burnout or mental health challenges, taking leaves of absence, quitting for private agencies, or settling into early retirement. To secure health human resources in the short and long-term, a collaborative approach is required across provincial and national institutions, industries, unions, and government.
For example, Nova Scotia’s government created the Office of Health Care Professionals Recruitment and is committed to listening to local communities, and the four Atlantic Premiers signed an accord committing to collaborate and provide better healthcare regionally.
Organizations must remain actively engaged with stakeholders to find skilled staff to fill critical roles. In this highly competitive market employers are vying staff across healthcare disciplines. Effective recruitment campaigns require research to understand priorities and needs; a clear and confident value proposition; and aggressive marketing tactics like competitive geo-targeting.
In the long-term, innovative public policy and a funnel of strong candidates in post-secondary training programs is essential. The health of this workforce, and all Canadians, depends on it.
Lynn Bessoudo, Senior Director, Healthcare, NATIONAL Atlantic
Public Health: It’s about time to have a talk
Public Health had never been under such a spotlight as in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its representatives, who were often unknown to Canadians, are now at the heart of the greatest healthcare battle of our time.
Every ministry of health is responsible for its own decisions and has the authority to accept or reject recommendations made by Public Health experts.
Vaccination and screening strategies, health measures such as distancing and wearing masks, and several other decisions made by governments stem from Public Health advice.
In 2022, Public Health will continue being called upon more than ever before; and it will be criticized, compared, sometimes blamed or potentially even accused of responding in political interest, especially on the eve of an election year in Quebec and Ontario.
As a result, Public Health will have to optimize how it communicates its messages in order to maintain its credibility as an independent body and, above all, maintain Canadians’ adherence to its recommendations.
Christian Ahuet, Senior Consultant, Healthcare, NATIONAL Montreal
Decision-makers must address the shifting psychological climate in Canada
We have seen a notable increase in mental health awareness initiatives both nationally and globally. Due to prolonged periods of stress and anxiety, the impacts of social isolation, and an increase in substance use and domestic abuse rates, Canadians are facing a mental health crisis like no other. As we enter the third year of the pandemic, we can expect mental health to remain a top area of focus in 2022.
On both a federal and provincial level, governments have ensured the prioritization of mental health services and funding in 2022. Funding mental health services was a key commitment of the government during the 2021 election. Organizations are now prioritizing ways to better support their workforce’s mental health through innovative internal policies, programs, and internal communication efforts.
We can clearly see the negative short-term implications the last few years have had on our mental health, yet the long-term impact remains less clear. In 2022, it will be increasingly important for decision-makers in Canada to identify and develop comprehensive long-term strategies to address the worsening psychological climate we find ourselves in.
Samantha Thompson, Consultant, Healthcare, NATIONAL Toronto
——— Lynn Bessoudo is a former Senior Director, Healthcare at NATIONAL Public Relations
——— Samantha Thompson is a former Senior Consultant at NATIONAL Public Relations