Switch to digital improving quality of care: Users
By Dan Strasbourg
Growth in the use of interoperable Electronic Health Records (iEHR) by Canadian doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals is fueling benefits for patients and providers, including improved quality of patient care, according to two articles published this year in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making.
“The evidence confirms that use of the interoperable Electronic Health Record systems built by the provinces, territories, hospitals and other partners over the past 15 years is delivering patient care benefits and improvements for providers as intended,” said Michael Green, President and CEO, Canada Health Infoway (Infoway).
According to the article Measuring interoperable EHR adoption and maturity: a Canadian example, 91,235 health care professionals in Canada were active users of at least two iEHR components (e.g., access to diagnostic tests and drug information outside of their organization) as of March 31, 2015. Twelve months later, that figure jumped by an additional 50 per cent, bringing the number to approximately 139,000. More than 250,000 clinicians from across Canada use at least one component of the iEHR.
Bobby Gheorghiu, Infoway’s Manager of Trending and Performance, who authored the article, says the increased use is expected to continue to rise.
“As more and more health care professionals use Electronic Health Record systems to access patient information from other institutions, the country moves closer to digital becoming the standard of practice,” he said.
A second article, The value of connected health information: perceptions of electronic health users in Canada, reveals that iEHR users are reporting improved quality of care and improved access to patient information.
Sukirtha Tharmalingam, Infoway’s Manager of Evaluation Methods, isn’t surprised that health care providers are noticing patient benefits as a result of their use of digital health.
“When healthcare professionals use interoperable Electronic Health Records, less time is spent tracking down the information they need to make informed care decisions, which means diagnosis and treatment can proceed at a faster pace, leading to improved quality of care,” she said.
According to Michael Green, the growing value that has accrued by investing in digital health for clinicians will increase as more patients gain access to digital health tools and capabilities.
“The use of the iEHR by Canadian clinicians is beyond the tipping point, and following closely behind are patients and caregivers, who also expect to have the ability to make use of digital health tools and capabilities, as they should,” he said. “Infoway engages with patients from across Canada through research, patient advocacy groups and our ImagineNation Challenge series, and a common theme we hear is that Canadians want online patient services to help them manage their health.”
Infoway aims to further its engagement with patients, as well as health care professionals and caregivers through the Better Health Together public education campaign and engagement initiative. As part of these efforts, Infoway, together with its many partners from across Canada, will take part in Digital Health Week from November 14 to 20.
Dan Strasbourg is Director, Media Relations at Canada Health Infoway.