We have the communication technology – let’s use it!

There is little doubt that Canada requires a seismic shift in policy and leadership – though not necessarily additional significant investment – to make the needed improvements in health care delivery. This is made abundantly clear in the Health Council of Canada’s Progress Report 2013: Health Care Renewal in Canada; an impressive report that captures the essence of where we are and where we need to be.

Despite commitment at many levels, access to health care is delivered primarily at the local level and one’s access to their primary care provider and team remains variable and lacks economic efficiency.

While Canada faces economic challenges, Theodor Marmor, a Professor of Public Policy and Management at Yale says that health care reform often occurs when governments face serious fiscal deficits.

We must harness the low-cost innovation technology reforms that have high returns on investment, allowing patients to fully engage in their own health care management. The time is now to embrace the 57% of physicians who are using EMRs. Interoperability will ensure needed advances in primary care reform. We must use encrypted email and smart phones in an era of Bring Your Own Device in business. Estimated savings of time and money using secure messaging or texting with your provider will ensure the accountability of the providers, allowing real time access to simple questions such as the result of a pregnancy test to prevent unwanted complication. In Diabetes Care, July 2011 the evidence was in: “mobile coaching substantially reduced A1Cs (glycated hemoglobin) over one year.”

In the future, the profession will embrace the patient who performed the home-monitored blood pressure reading stored on their mobile phone and discussed with the pharmacist or nurse before seeing the family physician for targeted medication intervention.

Why not teach a patient about the cardiac risk or the high-risk osteoporosis patient about the ten-year Risk Assessment Tool from Osteoporosis Canada available on iPhones?

Some of these issues are already being addressed with Telemedicine, which is transforming cancer and psychiatric care, reducing travel and risk in underserviced areas.

The opportunity to value time saved by engaging the consumer has arrived.

  • The Canadian Medical Protective Association has strongly advised the encryption of data flowing electronically between patient and providers in the circle of care.
  • The provision of eCodes recognizes the need for e-consults and will tip the profession to try new mobile technology: attach lab results, diagnostic images, photographs of rashes to ask the dermatologists for the diagnosis.
  • EHRs provide the ability to access and share patient records interfacing with EMRs through the internet or to download them onto virtually any smartphone or mobile device.
  • We can connect all the allied care providers and others to the circle of care, and facilitate the effective management of population health issues, such as chlamydia identification or cancer screening.
  • The cost is shared with the engaged consumer now motivated to avoid an unnecessary visit to the emergency room and walk-in clinics.

The future will be very exciting.

This blog is republished with the permission of the Health Council of Canada.

The comments section is closed.

  • Fiona McMurran says:

    This writer and those like her really need to understand the size of the gap that needs to be bridged before the future they envision becomes reality — if indeed it ever does. Most elderly patients that I know (not the baby-boomer generation, but their parents) have never seen themselves as “engaged consumers” of health care. Having been conditioned to look up to health care professionals as gods practicing a mysterious art of which they know nothing, some simply do as their doctor tells them, lacking enough information about their own conditions, and the medications prescribed for them, to raise questions. For some, nothing is going to replace their confidence in the hospital as the main repository of expertise that might well save their life. The push to alter the role of hospitals as the central healthcare institution in communities has been sudden — from the point of view of the public — and frightening, especially since the much-vaunted “community supports” are usually not yet established. The model of healthcare described here may well be the way of the future, but how are we going to get from here — where the confidence in the Ontario healthcare system is rapidly eroding, and many are both confused and bewildered at having drastic changes forced upon them — to there?

  • Sharon Wilton, Project Share says:

    Ron Wray added this information in February:


    From the ‘Digital Divide’ to ‘Digital Inequality’: Studying Internet Use as Penetration Increases

    “…..students of inequality of access to the new information technologies should shift their attention from the “digital divide” — ine-quality between “haves” and “have-nots” differentiated by dichotomous measures of access to or use of the new technologies — to digital inequality, by which we refer not just to differences in access, but also to inequality among persons with formal access to the Internet. After reviewing data on Internet penetration, we describe five dimensions of digital inequality — 1) in equipment, 2) autonomy of use, 3) skill, 4) social support, and 5) the purposes for which the technology is employed — that we believe deserve additional attention”.


    (end of paste)

    I can see the marketplace zoning in on 1. equipments as that is the only true ” point of sale” and has the advantage of protecting privacy of information.

    The problem with promoting this enthusiasm on the threshold of ” semantics”:
    ( pure knowledge pursuit that shuns the distraction of promoting any one perspective or product )
    as outshining the attraction of the purchaser who has already discovered that knowledge in medicine is a ” closed shop” ( for internal application only).

    A common lament from those hearing ” only one complaint allowed” ( versus whole person care) is….
    ” Physicians have all this knowledge , why don’t you share it?”

    You may find a greater interest for communicating devices will remain in the arena of ” emergency alert” because preventive medicine is now replaced by ” harm reduction” ( which has no cure stage )

    Be excited about the future if you want.. but it is not a future that includes an excited patient .
    At the most a SAAT ( self assessment analysis tool ) will be used by the top 5% ( chronic) to stabilize their personal delivery system.


Wendy Graham


Dr. Wendy Graham is a family doctor and the CEO of Mihealth Global Systems Inc.

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