Canadians are proud to live in a country with universal health care, but the reality is that our health care systems are fragmented and outdated. Despite the money we spend on health care, research shows that Canada ranks at or near the bottom in international comparisons of timely, equitable access to appropriate care.

A study of 11 countries published by The Commonwealth Fund in July 20171 found that only 57 percent of Canadians, on average, can get same or next-day appointments with doctors. Out of frustration, some go to hospital emergency rooms, where 29 percent reported waiting four or more hours to receive attention. Sweden ranked lower at 20 percent, while France ranked first, with only one percent having to wait that long. In terms of online access to health information, such as viewing lab results, Canada ranked third from the bottom, with only six percent of people able to do so, while France ranked first at 27 percent. As for the ability to email a doctor with a question, Canada ranked last at four percent and France was again first, at 24 percent.

Canada Health Infoway is leading a national strategy called Driving Access to Care that will focus on initiatives that empower Canadians and strengthen their care teams through digital health solutions. This strategy will put patients and their families at the centre of everything we do; ensuring that providers have the right tools to deliver optimal care and focusing on initiatives that deliver positive, meaningful impact to Canadians, including improved patient experiences and establishing strategic partnerships and alliances with public and private sector organizations to leverage their collective power to drive innovation.

The short-term focus will zero in on two key initiatives:

  • Implementing an ACCESS Digital Health2 Ecosystem to deliver digital services such as e-visits, e-referrals, e-consultations, and e-viewing of lab results and other information; and
  • Scaling a national e-prescribing service called PrescribeIT™, which promotes medication safety, and makes prescribing more convenient and efficient for patients and providers.

PrescribeIT™ is already live through limited production releases in Ontario and Alberta, with deployment planned for other jurisdictions later in 2018.

These initiatives and our overall strategy are aligned with the federal, provincial, and territorial government health care priorities, including tackling the opioid crisis and addressing needs like mental health services and services for Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.

Our goal is to provide all Canadians with a modern, 21st century health care system that is sustainable, efficient, provides better access to care, and, most importantly, improves health outcomes. Canada should be at or near the top in those Commonwealth Fund rankings, and Infoway is committed to working with our partners to get there.

Michael Green is President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway. Connect with him on Twitter @MGreenonHealth.

1Mirror, Mirror: How the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally at a Time of Radical Change, The Commonwealth Fund, July 2017.

2Working title