TORONTO, February 9, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - With its newest investment program, Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) is funding Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems in community-based practices and outpatient settings throughout Canada. Infoway President and CEO, Richard Alvarez, today provided details about the $380 million fund which is designed to focus investment at the points of care where the benefits of health information technology can deliver immediate value to patients and clinicians.
"Connecting health providers to the health information systems being developed across the country is fundamental to Infoway's mandate," says Alvarez. "This new wave of investment, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, will help us reach our target to enroll an additional 8,000 to 9,000 physicians and nurse practitioners in EMR programs by March 2012."
Infoway's investment in electronic medical records is part of the $500 million in new funding provided by the Government of Canada in its 2010 Budget. Through this program, Infoway will co-fund EMR systems for physicians and nurse practitioners, working through funding programs in provinces and territories throughout Canada. Infoway support will allow provinces and territories that have programs in place to expand their current programs. In jurisdictions planning to introduce a formal EMR program in the near future, Infoway will assist with start-up costs.
"Infoway's initiative shows real commitment to put EMR support where it is needed most: at the front lines of care," said Dr. Jeff Turnbull, President of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). "Increasing the use of EMR systems is a critical component of the CMA's vision to transform Canada's health care system so that it puts patients first."
Infoway will also invest in clinical peer support networks so that health professionals using EMR systems can learn from others' experience and share best practices, innovation projects, and other efforts to accelerate clinical value from the use of information and communications technologies. As well, support will be provided to qualifying information technology vendors needing to upgrade their current product lines to meet Infoway privacy, security and interoperability standards.
Infoway's investments in EMR systems will be tied to the extent to which health professionals derive clinical value which will include using an EMR for functions such as entering patient information including notes, allergies, immunizations and prescribed medications or viewing lab tests. Additional clinical value will be derived from using the more advanced functionality of the EMR and supporting greater interoperability of the EMR with external systems.
"It is now time to ensure front-line clinicians have the ability to interact with these core systems and can use them to better manage patient care, added Alvarez. "Integrating point of service technologies such as EMR systems in community-based physician offices and ambulatory care settings allows us to leverage our investments to date in core provincial and territorial electronic health record systems."
Canada is one of the most connected nations in the world and Canadian patients want more interactivity and interoperability from their health care system.
"In the national dialogue the CMA has started with Canadians, improving and better integrating the use of EMRs and electronic linkages between providers and patients is a major recurring theme," added Dr. Turnbull. "This is not a brave new world for patients. They are plugged in and they want better IT and communication tools in their health care."
Family physicians such as Dr. Michael Golbey of Kelowna, British Columbia, believe now is the time for physicians to consider putting an EMR system in their practice.
"I would encourage my fellow doctors to talk to colleagues who have already put an EMR system in place. Go see how it works, spend some time with them, and I'm sure you'll be convinced that it really is worthwhile," says Dr. Golbey. "We've come a long way from where we were five years ago. People who implemented EMRs at that time, they were pioneers. But if you look around today, the people who are implementing EMR systems are average doctors."
As a strategic investor in the development of health information and communications technologies, Infoway has designed this new investment program to support jurisdictional efforts to encourage physicians and nurse practitioners to adopt, use and derive practical, tangible clinical value from interoperable EMR systems in community and out-patient settings.
Based on a Conference Board of Canada economic impact study, over the next four years investment expenditures made by Infoway and its partners will stimulate the Canadian economy with a $1.11 billion increase to real gross domestic product and create an estimated 10,700 person years of employment.
Canada Health Infoway is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government. Infoway jointly invests with every province and territory to accelerate the development and adoption of information and communications technology projects in Canada. Fully respecting patient confidentiality, these secure systems will provide clinicians and patients with the information they need to better support safe care decisions and manage their own health. Accessing this vital information quickly will help foster a more modern and sustainable health care system for all Canadians.
Electronic Medical Records - Good News for Canadian Health Care
The emergence of electronic medical record (EMR) systems that channel accurate up-to-date health information to a desktop computer or a hand held device in a community-based clinic represents one of the most significant advancements in Canadian health care in decades.
EMRs - the systems used in some private practices and clinics to store, retrieve, and update health information - make it easier to deliver a meaningful diagnosis, determine a treatment or manage a chronic disease.
By using an EMR system, Canadian physicians, nurse practitioners and other authorized health providers are provided with easy access to a complete picture of their patient's health information such as their medication history, information about drug sensitivities and allergies, lab tests and clinical reports.
Strategic investments recently announced by Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) will accelerate the adoption and use of EMRs in community and out-patient care settings, as well as connecting them to their jurisdictional electronic health record (EHR) system. Infoway's goal is to support the provinces and territories to enroll an additional 8,000 to 9,000 physicians in physician office EMR programs across Canada by March 2012.
New agreements now being signed with provincial and territorial jurisdictions will hasten the day when physicians and nurse practitioners, are provided with the health data they need to improve the quality of care via an EMR system in their local office.
Supporting the Transition to EMRs
Supporting individuals and teams of health providers through an EMR deployment is as important as any software or hardware solution or upgrade. An effective change management process definitely contributes to the success of an EMR project.
The Great Slave Medical House in Yellowknife implemented an EMR system in 2005. It employs six physicians, several nurses and nurse practitioners, a mental health specialist, a community outreach worker and medical office assistants.
The clinic provides its services in a remote setting, and coordinating information across multiple sites and care providers is critical. Even though it was badly needed, the implementation of the clinic's EMR took patience and required careful planning. Adjustments to workflow were the key issue for the team members working through the implementation, but once they got it right, they started to see the benefits of the EMR.
Infoway has also funded a Clinician Peer Support Network to promote dialogue and information sharing among clinical practitioners involved in EHR and EMR implementation processes. This network shares best practices and change management approaches so others don't need to start from scratch.
Infoway's latest investment wave is meant to further encourage the adoption of these promising, new EMR systems. The benefit they bring to Canadians will make the delivery of heath care better and the business of health care easier.
For more information about Canada's progress in implementing information and communications technologies in health care, please visit www.knowingisbetter.ca or www.infoway-inforoute.ca.
EMR Success Stories
Physician Office EMR Programs
The Family Health Clinic in Calgary, headed by Dr. Norman Yee, began using an EMR system in 2002. Today, the clinic's eight physicians, rheumatologist, clinic manager and several office staff report the move has simplified office workflow, improved office communication and made it easier to provide quality care and patient education. The main effect of the EMR has been that staff have more time for those coming to the clinic for care.
Dr. Yee ensured that a change management plan was in place, helped create a budget for the project, and suggested the hiring of a clinic manager with the business and organizational management experience needed to help guide them through. Since the EMR was introduced, the clinic has been able to double its number of doctors without adding any new support staff.
Patients seeing a number of skilled health care practitioners, in sequence or at the same time, will be pleased to know that an EMR puts them all on the same page. Take for example, Central Interior Native Health Services in downtown Prince George, British Columbia. The clinic is a showcase for how an EMR can support and coordinate the work of multiple health care providers and community workers from different disciples. Today full spectrum and coordinated care is being provided by the clinic's four physicians, three medical office assistants, two nurses, two social workers, one nurse practitioner, one Aboriginal support worker, one addictions worker, one office administrator and one primary health care coordinator.
In 2004, when Vioxx was recalled by its manufacturer, it took one Ottawa general practitioner just 15 minutes to pinpoint each of his patients taking the drug because an EMR was in place. Within hours, everyone had been reached and informed about the implications of the recall.
Chronic Disease Management
George Roper has multiple medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes, and the aftermath of arterial surgery and colon cancer treatment, making management of his health complex indeed. He likes EMRs because his Ottawa-based physician can give him an up-to-date printed record of his current condition at each appointment. Another patient, Diane Snowball, likes the automatic reminders prompted by her physician's EMR system. While being treated for breast cancer, someone from the doctor's office called to remind her about her other regular tests, such as a Pap smear.