For the past few months I have been spending considerable time researching the issues and concerns of physicians and patients. As I read Rosie Lombardi’s insightful article in the most recent edition Technology for Doctors, I was struck by the similarity between what physicians and patients both want … better access to personal health information. In particular, Dr. Anne Doig’s comments in Rosie’s article was particularly poignant:
“Many doctors who implemented EMRs said, ‘We wish we could connect properly to other medical entities but we can’t – but we’ll implement electronic records to serve our needs internally.’ So all those EMRs are functioning in isolation from each other.”
Although their reasons may differ, both physicians and patients seem to have a similar rallying cry – “Give me the damn data!” The common denominator in both cases is the role that IT can play in making the data they need to deliver care and manage their health.
In advance of its upcoming annual General Council in Niagara Falls next week, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has released a report entitled “Health Care Transformation in Canada: Change that Works, Care that Lasts”. This report describes the CMA’s roadmap for transforming the Canadian health system in order to “improve the health of the population at large, to improve the health care experiences of patients, and to improve the value for money spent on health and health care”.
In its report, the CMA describes a “Framework for Transformation” organized around five pillars:
- Building a culture of patient-centred care
- Incentives for enhancing access and improving quality of care
- Enhancing patient access along the continuum of care
- Helping providers help patients
- Building accountability / responsibility at all levels.
Under the “Helping providers help patients pillar”, the CMA has identified two strategic imperatives:
- Ensuring Canada has an adequate supply of health human resources
- More effective adoption of health information technologies
The CMA contends that “Multi-billion dollar investments made in Canada on HIT, however, have not resulted in significant benefits to providers or patients … due to the fact that all jurisdictions have taken a top-down approach to their HIT strategies”. The CMA points out that IT investments at the points of care “where the actual benefits of HIT will be realized” have been quite low and argues that “we need to move from a top-down approach to one that gives all providers, in particular physicians, the lead role in determining how best to use HIT to improve care, improve safety, improve access and help alleviate our growing health human issue”.
My colleague Rosie Lombardie, editor of Technology for Doctors magazine, recently wrote an excellent article on the CMA’s proposed HIT strategy. This article includes numerous quotes from Dr. Anne Doig, CMA’s President. Dr. Doig pulls no punches in her assessment of how HIT funding has been spent to date and how it should be spent in the future. For example, Dr. Doing states, “The focus has been on building systems for electronic health records (EHR) instead of electronic medical records (EMR)”. She further asserts that “If they had started at the ground level, we would have had 99 percent of doctors on EMRs by now. We would have pushed local health authorities to respond to our demand for downloadable lab results and other practicalities.”
I encourage you to read Rosie’s article. As a practicing physician with practical experience using an EMR, Dr. Doig offers a front line perspective on HIT investments. Rosie has done a great job capturing and presenting Dr. Doig’s views.