Contributed by Mary Lou Fleming and Diane Ricordi, OntarioMD Practice Advisors
In early 2020, two of OntarioMD’s longest-serving Practice Advisors shifted into retirement. As key members of OntarioMD’s hands-on practice support team since 2009, Mary Lou Fleming and Diane Ricordi have had a first-hand view of the impact of digital health’s evolution on primary care practices, patients and the system as a whole. As OntarioMD celebrates its 15th anniversary, we asked Mary Lou and Diane to share some of the memories and insights they’ve gained through working at OntarioMD.
Our participation in OntarioMD’s work and evolution began in 2009 with electronic medical record (EMR) funding. The EMR Adoption Program launched by the provincial government and administered by OntarioMD provided the support for Ontario’s physicians to establish themselves in the developing digital health space. For us and our fellow OntarioMD Practice Advisors, the adoption program represented an opportunity to use our practice knowledge to help clinicians through this transition.
There were untold hours of face-to-face interaction – change management sessions, workflow reviews and countless signed documentation and agreements. Most of the physicians and practice staff in our region met with us in hotels in groups, coming together to learn about the value EMRs held for their practices and patients, and to sign up for funding to get an EMR in their practice. Our roles were complemented by our colleagues in the field and at OntarioMD’s head office. Together, we assisted the province-wide transformation of practices from paper-based to EMR-driven. And our efforts were wildly successful; In 2009 45% of community-based physicians in Ontario had an EMR, and by 2016 that percentage increased to 85%.
Over the past 10 years, OntarioMD’s Practice Advisors have spent countless hours in clinicians’ offices and clinics, helping them understand and connect to OntarioMD-developed products and those we deploy on behalf of our partners, and enabling clinicians’ growth in the effective use of digital health care. OntarioMD’s growing team of “boots on the ground” allowed us to provide the support needed to make the transition and adoption of these products and programs as seamless as possible for clinicians and their staff.
OntarioMD’s highly respected and valued Health Report Manager (HRM) was the catalyst for hospital reports integrated with EMRs and continues to play a leading role in digital health in Ontario. Our ongoing facilitation and support of services such as the Ontario Laboratories Information System (OLIS), ConnectingOntario ClinicalViewer and eConsult are just a few of the other game-changing initiatives we deployed in physician practices. And there are bigger and better things to come – eConsult EMR integration, the Insights4Care Program and more – as EMRs become integrated with other provincial digital health assets.
As health care workers throughout our careers, patient care has always been our focus. Working for OntarioMD allowed us to continue with that objective over the past 10 years. As we head into the next phase of our lives, we will continue to closely follow the evolving challenges and opportunities in health care and the ongoing important work of our OntarioMD colleagues.