Buckle Up For The Next Leg Of Canada’s Digital Health Journey
Education and Advocacy Canada is already using digital methods to make health care more efficient. Now it’s being taken to another level.
In the year since she had a heart transplant, Anne-Marie Koeslag has been monitoring the results of regular blood tests by logging onto mychart.ca, a secure patient portal that stores her clinical information. After getting blood tests done for an unrelated health matter, she looked up the results on the site, which can be accessed by various institutions and health care providers depending on the patient, and noticed that her white blood cell count had spiked. She alerted the team involved in her transplant-related care and steps were taken to address the issue.
If Koeslag, 38, a middle-school teacher in Ottawa, hadn’t looked at the test results, the problem might not have been addressed so quickly.
“I’m one of those people who likes to know what’s going on. I need to know my numbers,” she says. “Now that I have access to that information I don’t have to get it from [the caregivers]. It saves them time — and I find it very empowering.”
Koeslag is among a growing number of Canadians benefiting from recent advancements in the convergence of digital technologies with health care.
Digital health entails the use of electronic communication tools, services, and processes to achieve three objectives — improved health outcomes for patients as well as reduced in costs and increased operational efficiency of health care providers.
In 2001, the provinces and territories began working in collaboration with Canada Health Infoway to invest in the implementation of Electronic Health Record systems (EHR), which contain patients’ medical information such as lab test results, drug history, and diagnostic images.
Today, more than 160,000 clinicians from various disciplines access the health information of Canadians digitally. A growing number of Canadians are gaining access through secure portals. Benefits associated with the use of digital health include fewer test duplications, more informed care decisions, and billions in cost savings and efficiencies generated each year.
Digital health saves billions of dollars
Work underway to increase the number of Canadians who have digital access to their health information will further propel the transformation of health care, according to Michael Green, President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway.
“Canadians want access to digital health tools and services, which is terrific because research conducted in Canada and abroad confirms that engaged and empowered patients have better outcomes,” said Mr. Green.
Engaging with patients like Anne-Marie is key to designing digital health solutions with their needs in mind.
“We need to ensure Canadians are co-designers of the digital health solutions they use to manage their health,” added Green. “Patients and the loved ones who care for them are important members of any care team. Incorporating their insights as solutions are designed is key to ensuring they will be useful and effective.”
The government of Canada recently allocated $300 million to Canada Health Infoway to accelerate Canadians’ access to their health information, to health services, and to safe access to prescription medications with the development of a multi-jurisdiction e-prescribing solution that will allow a doctor to send a digital prescription to their patient’s pharmacy — eliminating the need to rely on paper prescriptions.
For Anne-Marie Koeslag and millions of other Canadians, these changes can’t come fast enough. According a survey conducted by Ipsos, 9 in 10 Canadians want access to digital health services.