Alberta’s health tech sector has grown 130% since 2018, with 40% of these companies based in Edmonton, but these companies often have to look outside the province or even the country to find customers. , according to a report by the research arm of the Information and Communications Technology Council.
A Resilient Recovery: Alberta’s Digital-Led Post-COVID Future, which ICTC’s Ottawa-based digital think tank released June 30, calls health tech a key sub-sector poised to drive growth high-quality jobs in Alberta. But he identified some factors that are holding the industry back.
Study participants felt that the health care sector was hesitant to work with private companies, preferring instead to deal with foundations or not-for-profit organizations. When the sector invests in new technology, those contracts tend to go to big companies rather than local talent, complained participants interviewed for the report.
“One of the biggest threats to Canada, not just Alberta, is if we’re not able to engage our start-ups — in any sector, but health being a key sector — we will have to outsource everything, and that is what we are currently doing. We outsource everything,” said one focus group participant. “We have top-notch, world-class companies here in Canada that I see need to sell globally.”
Canada has been slow to adopt health technology innovations compared to other countries, according to the report. Telehealth services and online booking tools were identified as two technologies that have been further integrated into healthcare systems in other markets. Software and information systems companies accounted for just 15% of Alberta health technology firms in the data set of 108 companies analyzed in the report, far behind biotechnology, which accounted for 65% of companies.
“The provincial government faces pressure to improve Alberta’s health care system, expand access to health services and adopt new technologies, while containing health care spending,” the report said. “Health technology is therefore both an additional pressure on spending and, thanks to big data and AI, telehealth and automation, a means of moderating spending.”
Another factor limiting the success of health technologies is the availability of talent for in-demand roles such as software developers, business development managers and full-stack developers. These shortages are felt across Alberta’s digital economy, where industry growth has outstripped the pool of skilled employees. Between 2015 and 2020, Edmonton added 5,522 tech degrees to the job market, while adding about 12,000 tech jobs, according to CBRE.