According to an article posted on the CTV Toronto website, Health Minister Deb Matthews is quoted as saying:
“We’ve got more physicians with electronic medical records than any other province in the country. We are now a leader when it comes to the adoption of it.”
Hang on just a sec, Minister Matthews. I am huge proponent of the value of EMRs in physician offices and I think that there is a critical role for eHealth Ontario to play in driving use of IT in healthcare. HOWEVER … I think that it is disingenuous to say that Ontario is a leader just because nearly 5,500 doctors have installed an EMR.
To start, according to Canadian Medical Association statistics, only three provinces (QC, QB, and BC) have more than 5,500 doctors and only one province (QC) has more than 5,500 family physicians (the type of physician typically targeted for an EMR). So, the claim that Ontario has more doctors that have adopted an EMR than any other province is a rather hallow victory. What would be more useful is a comparison expressed in terms of a percentage of the doctors in each province. I highly suspect when viewed in this light that Ontario is not the leading province in terms of EMR adoption.
Another important distinction is “adoption” vs “use”. Just because a physician has installed an EMR doesn’t mean that they are making “meaningful use”. A 2009 Commonwealth Fund study showed that both Canada and the US lagged most other industrialized countries in using many of the EMR functions that offer significant clinical benefits. It would be interesting to know the extent to which the 5,500 doctors who have an installed an EMR are making “meaningful use” of this technology.
As I said earlier in this blog post, I think that Ontario is on the right track with its program to drive EMR adoption and use. Further, I believe that OntarioMD, the group set up within the Ontario Medical Association to implement Ontario’s EMR program, is making good progress and has many good initiatives in place. I just don’t believe that we should ignore or gloss over the facts in pursuit of a good news story.