SFU health sciences professor Jeremy Snyder, the study’s lead author.

issues and experts

Crowdfunding data reveals added health-related costs of Metro Vancouverites, SFU study

May 22, 2020

A new study analyzing crowdfunding use in Metro Vancouver reveals gaps and provides insight into the health-related financial needs of some Canadians.

The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, tracked more than 400 health-related GoFundMe.com campaigns within the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions during a month-long period.

Collectively, the campaigns requested more than $8.5 million in funding and were pledged $3.5 million from approximately 28,000 donors.

“Insights from crowdfunding data can help to inform policy makers, patient advocates, health workers, and other stakeholders about health system deficiencies that can create additional financial burdens for Canadians,” says SFU health sciences professor Jeremy Snyder, the study’s lead author. “These insights are important to have as they show where cracks can appear during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic we are now facing.”

Despite Canada’s robust healthcare system, some Canadians experience longer than average wait times or financial hardship for services not covered by the Canada Health Act. The study found a significant number of crowdfunding campaigns sought to cover expenses for travel, missed work or out-of-pocket costs in accessing care.

“Recouping lost wages due to illness and accessing treatment was by far the most common motivation for using crowdfunding,” says Valorie Crooks, SFU geography professor and study co-author. “These findings can be used to support some existing arguments regarding the impact of insurance gaps and indirect medical expenses as pressing needs facing Canadians.”

However, not all of the health-related needs described in these campaigns should be interpreted as identifying health and social system gaps.

"The data can also provide better understanding of trends around practices that fall outside the scope of the Canada Health Act, such as accessing unproven medical interventions and traveling abroad for care,” says Snyder.

The study encourages crowdfunding data to be used, along with other sources such as administration and census data, to identify gaps to discuss health system reform.