If you interact with the healthcare system on a regular basis or have a close friend or family member who does, you increasingly recognize that the health system is entering the digital age. Think what it would be like to do your banking or make your airline, hotel and travel plans without access to information and easy-to-use technologies that we now take for granted in our busy modern lives.

The business of healthcare

Healthcare is a major economic driver and a key element of our social fabric as Canadians.  With continually growing and complex patient needs, with many types of healthcare delivery organizations and with highly trained health professionals in high demand, there is an equally increasing complex range of information that needs to be accessible at the point-of-care to inform healthcare decisions and enable effective use of heath resources.

"Healthcare is a major economic driver and a key element of our social fabric as Canadians."

In the past several years significant progress has been made in digitizing the recording and capture of health information that has previously resided in paper-based filing systems. E-health technologies have begun to enable this digital information to follow the patient in their healthcare journey—enabling their care providers to access pertinent patient data in a secure, confidential and timely manner.

Electronic health records

The information for electronic health records is now available to over 55 percent of Canadians and similar electronic medical records are used by over 56 percent of Canadian primary care physicians. The foundations of provider-specific digital health solutions are in place in many clinics, laboratories, hospitals, pharmacies, public health and diagnostic imaging clinics.

Health informatics

Health informatics, the combination of information, technology and health professionals, opens up opportunities to foster innovative digital health solutions, enable better healthcare and transform the healthcare system through:

  • Engaging patients in their care (especially those with chronic diseases) by leveraging mobile health (mhealth) solutions, and advances in personal and home monitoring devices
  • Improving efficiency by reducing duplication of tests and ensuring informed care transfers
  • Improving patient safety by decreasing the risk of adverse drug interactions and medical errors
  • Making health services more accessible in remote communities through telehealth services
  • Enabling new patient-centred approaches to care delivery, providing clinicians with timely access to patient information and patients with electronic ‘apps’ to connect with their healthcare facilities and providers
  • Improving health system management by helping decision-makers use healthcare’s “big data” effectively.

However, effecting change in the complex healthcare environment requires skilled health informatics professionals who understand healthcare processes and information, as well as the technology. It also requires engaged, supported clinicians as digital health solutions are adopted, along with sustained, strategic investment at all levels of government.

Of course, patients and the public continually play a large role in digitization of the healthcare system. Just think—initially ATMs seemed like a big banking advancement, but now it’s possible to email money and manage your banking through an online dashboard. The future of digital healthcare is full of such possibilities!  

Bringing Canadian healthcare into the digital age empowers all of us to further transform and improve everyone’s health and wellbeing.