Mr. William (Bill) Pascal and I were interviewed as part of a qualitative study into Canada’s experience with implementation of electronic health information funded by the Commonwealth Fund and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. A report summarizing the result of this study was released today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Mr. Pascal graciously agreed to author a guest post summarizing his thoughts on the key findings from the study.
I read with interest the article in the most recent CMAJ on a Qualitative Study of Canada’s Experience with Implementation of Electronic Health Information. The study brings together the collective views of a broad cross- section of key leaders and influencers in the health care sector, all of whom have long experience in developing policies and or delivering care. I have to declare that I was one of these people.
The interpretation by the authors of this study point to many issues which need to be addressed if we are going to be successful as a country with helping to transform our health care system to better serve Canadians. Two observations I thought were particularly timely. The first about creating a provincial clinical information office is intriguing. We have not done a good job in linking Information technology to health care needs and this could help bridge this gap.
The second issue is about the lack of e-Health policies that will guide the implementation of information technologies to better address our pressing health issues in Canada. The development of these policies need to be undertaken now with the participation of all parties; providers, patients, vendors and governments. Some of these will be unique to jurisdictions while others will require national cooperation and dialogue. I thought the list of policy issues highlighted in the Conclusion section was fairly comprehensive. I would be interested in the viewpoints of others on whether this list is comprehensive or others need to be added.
Chief Technology Officer, Canadian Medical Association
An article in yesterday’s National Post entitled “Better data save lives” highlights the confusion arising from the use of two similar but very different terms – Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and Electronic Health Record (EHR). Although the article only used the term “electronic health record”, it actually referred to both types of electronic records. This confusion extends beyond the mainstream press – have a look at this exchange in an online forum devoted to EMRs. To make matters even more confusing, Canada Health Infoway (and many provinces) uses the term EMR to refer systems used in physician offices while the US uses EHR for these very same systems.
Does it really make a difference what people call these systems? In the overall scheme of things, likely not. However, if you are trying to understand how public money is being spent, the difference becomes quite important. It is unfortunate that two very similar phrases have been chosen to describe different concepts and that different jurisdictions have chosen to further complicate matters by using the same term in different ways.
This messy situation won’t be changed anytime soon. All I can suggest is that you pay careful attention to the context in which these phrases are used and be wary of incorrect use of these terms in the public media.
Dr. Alan Brookstone pointed on his blog today (www.canadianemr.ca) that HIMSS and the American Society for Quality (ASQ) are publishing case studies on hospital use of healthcare IT (geez, I finding myself avoiding use of the word “eHealth”). Check them out:
I am interested in hearing similar success stories in Canada. As I find them I will post them on the blog and, if I can gather enough of them, I will create a special area on the site for these stories. So, those of you responsible for PR in their healthcare organization looking to promote local success stories, please point them out to me!
In his first article on the Canadian eHealth agenda Bill Pascal suggested that “we need to resolve many policy issues”. I am going to go further and state that we need to create an organization at the national level charged with creating and driving Canadian eHealth policy. Many other countries, including the US, have created such an organization and their leaders are providing critical leadership and visibility with respect to their country’s eHealth agenda. While Infoway is a vital and important component of the Canadian eHealth landscape, it was not intended to be a policy organization.
What do other people think? How do we best drive resolving the many policy issues associated with eHealth in Canada. What, in your opinion, are the key policy issues that need to be resolved?
Bill Pascal, the Chief Technology Officer for the Canadian Medical Association, published the first in what he plans to be a series of articles on the Canadian eHealth agenda in Health Information Management & Communications Canada – the journal of COACH, the Canadian health informatics association. (5 – Reflections on an Agenda William Pascal). A number of people provided Bill with input and feedback including me. We’d like to solicit input on Bill’s thoughts and suggestions and will use this blog as one vehicle to do so. To stimulate debate we will publish blog posts on various topics related to the Canadian eHealth agenda. You can contribute by either commenting on these posts or by writing post of your own on which others can comment. If you are interested in publishing a blog post as a guest author please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let the discussion begin!