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Digital health for all Canadians will help transform care

By Michael Green, President and CEO, Canada Health Infoway

Across the globe, and here at home, innovative patient-centered digital technologies are making health care more accessible for patients and more sustainable for funders.

There is no question that information is critical to quality care, whether patients are in hospital or managing their conditions themselves at home. The gains that have been made through digital health are evident and Canadians want secure access to online patient services forthemselves. Because of the investments Infoway has made with its jurisdictional partners in essential foundational digital health infostructure, Canada has never been better positioned to make that happen.

In fact, patient portals, such as initiatives at Toronto's Holland Bloorview and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, and Nova Scotia's patient portal project, are already providing Canadians with access to their health information.

Working together, we have made great strides and we need to maintain this momentum. Harris/Decima reports that 80 to 90 per cent of Canadians want access to their health records and other consumer health services, but only between six and 10 per cent actually can access them.

Leveraging these untapped opportunities to support patient-centered care through consumer access to digital health tools and capabilities is the emerging focus in Canada's digital health journey. Canada, in particular, is a country where the expansion of consumer-oriented digital health makes a great deal of sense.

We are among the highest users of the internet in the world. Canadians go online to shop, to read or watch the news, to bank, and to communicate with friends. And research is showing that they know digital health makes health care easier and more convenient, and they want access for themselves.

The Medical Post recently convened an expert panel to discuss the state of technology in health care. The comparison was made between health care today and the banking industry 15 years ago. Back then, many banking executives were concentrating their efforts on providing services through ATMs, assuming that this was what customers really wanted. It turned out, of course, that what customers also wanted was the freedom and flexibility to take control of all their own banking themselves, online.

Canada's information-intensive health care system is going through a similar transformation. Supporting the desire of consumers for involvement in their own care by providing them with digital health tools and capabilities will go a long way to achieving a high performing, modern and sustainable health care system.

Are you or your patients using digital health tools? What changes have you noticed? Are your patients ready for digital health?


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