Canada is a lot more connected when it comes to digital health than I first realized. Adoption rates are skyrocketing in some areas, including the far North.
My recent post about telemedicine in Canada received quite a lot of feedback and I was pleased to see some traction on the issue. It is always gratifying to see folks weighing in on issues relating to the Great White North and perhaps more importantly, gaining insight into the way things work in the land of universal health care.
Since writing that first piece, I have delved a bit deeper into the issue of digital health and telemedicine in Canada and to my delight I have discovered that Canada is a lot more connected than I first realized.
Consider these fast facts about digital health in Canada.
They come from the national, federally-funded, non-profit organization Canada Health Infoway. And to flip the old “what you don’t know can hurt you” mantra on its head, what you don’t know about digital health in Canada can help you – if you’re Canadian that is.
1. Nine in 10 Canadians would like to book their health care appointments electronically.
E-booking delivers a wide range of benefits for both clinicians and their patients—including reduced no-show rates, increased productivity and enhanced patient and staff satisfaction.
I personally e-mail my clinic for appointments, which I like because it saves me from sitting on hold over the phone, dealing with overwhelmed receptionists and allows me to click and drag the appointment directly from my e-mail into my calendar. It may sound like small potatoes, but everything helps nowadays.
2. Almost two-thirds of primary care physicians in Canada report using an electronic medical record.
This offers a higher quality of care and better health outcomes through preventive care and chronic disease management. All of my medical records are digital so when I see my family doctor she simply points the screen in my direction so we can look at it together.
I remember the day when her clinic first began using electronic record-keeping. What a nightmare for them. I could see them struggling but they eventually got used to it. The only trouble is, sometimes if my doctor is unavailable and I see another one in her place, the physician spends more time typing in what I’m saying rather than listening to me and then typing in the information afterwards. It leaves you feeling kind of frustrated. Luckily, my doctor posts her information after our appointment is over.
3. Ninety-nine per cent of x-ray, CT and similar scans in Canadian hospitals are now digital.
This does not include private clinics where things are still done the “old fashioned way.” Digital diagnostic imaging permits authorized health care providers to collect, store, manage and access images regardless of where they, or their patients, are located.
At The Ottawa Hospital where I have gone for various tests over the years, everything is done digitally (in fact, all physicians were issued iPads a few years ago during the conversion). No pens and paper or illegible physician scratch there, folks. It’s all done electronically.
4. Laboratory test results for 81 per cent of Canadians are available in electronic form, for access by authorized clinicians.
Electronic medical record-integrated settings were able to sort, archive and retrieve a single lab report 87 per cent faster than paper-based practices.
5. Telehealth videoconferencing is available in 98 per cent of hospitals, making Canada “a global leader in this area”, according to Infoway.
The organization says telehealth saved more than 47 million kilometres in travel and $70 million in personal travel costs for patients and their families in 2010 alone.
Telehealth in the Great White North
Check out this video about a family in a remote northern Ontario community that does all its follow-up care for their son’s hand injury via telehealth.
The Canada Health Infoway consulted with the provinces (remember, health care in Canada is a provincial responsibility, although it is funded by the federal government) to create a blueprint for the way ahead to create national health recordkeeping.
This video explains more.
Infoway has also just released its 2015-2016 Corporate Plan, which outlines the following three objectives for the coming year:
- Improve the continuity of care
- Bring care closer to home
- Support Clinicians and Patients in Adopting and Using Digital Health Solutions
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. In the meantime, check out this encouraging video featuring a paramedic in Alberta.
With success stories like this, the state of digital health in Canada is promising indeed.
The nuviun industry network is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.