Wrong? (#ehealth14)

Is it wrong for every patient in Canada in 2014 to expect to have their medical information entered into an electronic record that can be shared with their designated health care providers anywhere in the country?
Is it wrong to expect to be able to access that record and associated test results or obtain a personal copy of it electronically?
Is it wrong to expect to be able to contact your physician in by email or in a text and exchange information about your health?
Well, ‘yes’, according to the man who has arguably led Canada’s progress in health information technology (IT) for the past decade.
At a panel discussion at the E-Health 2014 conference currently being held in Vancouver, Richard Alvarez who has headed Canada Health Infoway – the government agency charged with allocating hundreds of millions of dollars in bringing digital health to Canada – for a decade, feels Canadians expectations for digital health may still be too high.
“In comparison to what?” is the question he posed in response to being asked whether Canada was moving fast enough to meet those expectations.
Alvarez focused on just how far Canada has come in building an entire infrastructure to support health IT and in totally changing the culture of clinicians so they will accept and endorse incorporating digital tools into their practice.
He has a point but it may not be one many are willing to acknowledge. Then again, I think it is fair for Canadians to ask more of a digital health system that often remains stuck in pilot-project mode and a culture still struggling to see patients as partners in their own care.
Held annually and attracting more than 1000 committed professionals – clinicians, vendors and policy makers – interested in digital health, the E-Health is the Canadian equivalent of the monster Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) meeting held annually in the U.S.
The commitment to using digital tools to provide better care at this meeting cannot be questioned and some of the projects being described at the meeting are truly innovative. All are underpinned by surveys and statistics showing just how open patients are to seeing these tools involved in their care if it will improve their outcome.
As it was with HIMSS, patient engagement is a big topic at E-Health this year, but while patient advocates and stories abound, the patients themselves seem to be absent (but I may be wrong, this is a big meeting after all).
It’s all fascinating and I hope comment again before this meeting is over.

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