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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Building on our progress in digital health to benefit Canadians

Photo by Tim Fraser
Richard C. Alvarez, ICD.D is President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway
"Better health. Better care. Better value. For all. Canadians expect, and deserve, no less.” 
We couldn’t agree more with these statements in the conclusion of the Health Council of Canada’s recent report.
But how do we get there?

As the pan-Canadian organization tasked with implementing our country’s digital health strategy, we know what it’s like to face big challenges. It has taken time to build our foundation and put core systems in place across the country. But we are now starting to see tremendous progress on the availability and use of electronic health records, electronic medical records and telehealth systems. This growth in availability and use is resulting in concrete benefits. In fact, we estimate $8.6 billion in benefits to Canadians and our health care system since 2007.

That’s good news, but our job is not finished. We need to accelerate our progress so all Canadians will benefit from digital health. And we need to focus on improving the patient experience and giving people a bigger role in their health care.

That’s what Canadians want too. We consulted with hundreds of them and developed a refreshed strategic plan that sets out key “opportunities for action” for digital health. Things like being able to monitor chronic health conditions from the comfort of home, scheduling medical appointments online, and e-prescribing to reduce medication errors.

Are these the right opportunities to pursue? Thought leaders in Canadian health care think so.

How do we get from “opportunities” to reality? We need to ensure that key enablers are in place. The Health Council’s report defines five key enablers for health care transformation – leadership, policies and legislation, capacity building, innovation, and measurement and reporting. These are largely the same as the digital health enablers we define in our strategic plan.

It will be a challenge for us to address these enablers. But Canadian health care leaders say we’re on the right path.

The journey ahead won’t be easy, for the digital health agenda or for broader health system transformation. But with a clear vision, and a clear path, it is possible to achieve our shared goals of better health, better care and better value, for all Canadians.

I welcome your input on this blog post. Feel free to contact me with your comments.

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