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Digital Health Week Coming, November 16

As published in Technology for Doctors Online, Posted October 15, 2015

According to the 2014 National Physicians survey, EMR use among family physicians nearly doubled in four years (from 41% in 2010 to 77% in 2014). The survey also found that 73% of specialists in Canada were reporting EMR use, up from 28% in 2007.

While EMR use increased in Canada, so did efficiency and patient care benefits, which were valued at more than $1.3 billion from 2006 to 2012, according to a 2013 pan-Canadian benefits evaluation study conducted by PwC and commissioned by Infoway.

The benefits illustrate the value EMRs provide, and show the potential that lies in the use of advanced features to support improved chronic disease management and preventive care. Specific findings of the 2013 pan-Canadian study include:

  • improved interactions and communications among care team members and between providers and patients
  • better quality of care and health outcomes through preventive care and chronic disease management with advanced EMR use
  • $800 million in administrative efficiencies as staff time is redeployed in community-based practices
  • $584 million in health system level benefits, such as reduced duplicate tests and adverse drug events.

EMR use is but one of several ways that recording, storing and accessing patient information, from lab test results to prescription management to diagnostic images, has been transformed across Canada through the use of digital health.

According to Michael Green, President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway, many untapped opportunities remain to support patient-centered care through consumer access to digital health tools and capabilities.

"The core systems of the electronic health record are now in place to digitally and securely collect, store and share the health information of 91% of Canadians," said Green. "This sets the stage for inviting patients to also benefit from the progress that has been made by using digital health tools themselves, the next step in the evolution of digital health."

According to a Harris/Decima survey, Canadians will need little convincing. Not only does the survey reveal that 96% of Canadians think it's important that the healthcare system make use of digital health tools and capabilities, the vast majority want access to their own health records and other consumer health services.

Judith Morley, a cancer survivor from Thornhill, Ontario, couldn't agree more. Access to an online patient portal helped Judith and her family manage her care and treatment, and she thinks every Canadian should have access to digital health tools.

"Digital health greatly improves the patient experience," said Morley. "Whether you're waiting to learn how your cancer treatment is progressing or you're booking your child's medical appointment, who wouldn't rather have the ability to do those things online, quickly and securely?"

According to Michael Green, now is the time to provide Canadians with the digital health tools and capabilities they are looking for.

"While Canadians are ready for e-booking and viewing lab results online, only 6% to 10% have access now," added Green. "The potential to enhance Canadians' patient experience by improving care and reducing the amount of time required to renew prescriptions, book appointments and manage illness has never been greater than it is today."

That view is echoed by leading Canadian healthcare organizations who have established Digital Health Week (November 16 – 22, 2015) to recognize how digital health is transforming care and helping to improve delivery of care across the country.

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