Better Healthcare with
Electronic Health Records
By Hon. Tony Clement
Minister of Health, Government of Canada
Technology is revolutionizing health care. MRIs and laparoscopy allow doctors to see and do things we once considered science fiction. But walk into an acute care setting today and the record of your encounter may still be captured on paper and film.
This is where the next revolution in health care is coming. Electronic Health Records (EHR) will improve patient safety by reducing errors from illegible handwriting and missing files. They will improve the continuity of care by storing results of blood tests and diagnostic imaging that can be quickly shared among health-care providers. They will reduce wait times by making the system more efficient, more responsive and more accessible. And they will save money.
About one-third of physicians are using EHRs, but this is not enough. In a country where digital technology is being used in almost every aspect of daily life, our health-care system has not kept pace. This is why we’ve invested $1.6 billion in Canada Health Infoway, a not-for-profit organization that is working in collaboration with Health Canada, the provinces, territories and other health-care organizations to increase the use of electronic health information across Canada in a consistent, sustainable and secure way.
Created in 2001, Infoway’s goal is to have modern health records management systems in every province and territory by 2010, with EHRs for at least 50% of Canadians. The key components of an EHR include:
- Drug Information Systems which provide physicians and pharmacists with the complete medication profile of a patient and support the identification of allergies and drug interactions;
- Diagnostic Imaging Systems which digitally store images, eliminating the need for film, and increasing efficiency;
- Laboratory Information Systems which contain the results of lab tests, supporting more timely treatment decisions, and reducing duplication;
- Client and Provider Registries which identify the ‘users’ of the system;
- The Shared Health Record which contains a history of the encounters an individual has with the health care system and includes clinical reports, and immunizations.
These important components are being rolled out — in phases — across the country. Although there have been varying levels of implementation to-date, successes have been realized in every province and territory. As this progress continues, these components will ultimately merge to become a robust and complete EHR.
In addition to this essential work, governments and Infoway are making investments to improve wait times management in the health care system. The innovative Patient Access to Quality Care program, created in 2007, encourages the use of technology to create new approaches to clinical practice and administrative processes that can be replicated across the country.
As these initiatives are being rolled out, the privacy and security of information is an issue of paramount importance. For this reason, Health Canada and Canada Health Infoway continue to work with provincial and territorial colleagues to ensure that as these technologies are implemented, personal health information is protected.