by Sarah Hutchison, Chief Executive Officer, OntarioMD
For many of us in the industry, Digital Health Week is the time of year when we reflect on the impact of health technology. This year we are simply marveling at the rapid transformation of health care delivery that has been enabled by technology in response to the global pandemic.
Like you, we could not have imagined how COVID-19 would reshape health care.
In just eight months, it feels as though we’ve changed almost everything about the way we work, and collectively we have demonstrated a receptivity to change at a pace – and at an intensity – we could not have dreamed of at the start of 2020.
Health care delivery persevered through the most challenging public health crisis of our time, a credit to the ingenuity and resilience of those who work across the system – including the cutting edge and adaptive technology we are creating and implementing to support care.
Clinicians have been at the forefront of digital transformation. Their practices have embraced digital and virtual care and, as they say, there is no going back. These clinicians are now engaging with their patients using a range of virtual tools that video consults remote monitoring, secure messaging, online bookings and prescriptions delivered electronically.
You can find out more about how we are using virtual care tools in a clinical setting, by visiting OntarioMD’s microsite created this spring to provide tips on how to screen patients virtually, how to keep in contact with those who are symptomatic, and how to virtually help patients with other conditions including chronic disease and acute illness.
Virtual care opens up a whole new world of opportunities for patient care, and it also raises new challenges that need our attention. These include how patient care can be delivered so that that health information is not siloed, what encounters and circumstances are most appropriate for virtual care delivery and how we manage care across provinces. We are also mindful to the impact of technology and change on providers and patients alike – seeking to reduce physician burnout. Many of these timely topics were explored at OntarioMD’s first Virtual Care Day Conference in October, and for those who missed it livestreams of those sessions can be found here.
Ontario hospitals are tapping into digital health technology to connect to family doctors as part of their role in the rapid delivery of COVID-19 test results and patient encounters related to the virus to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and ensure follow-up care for patients who contract it. Reports from hospitals and their COVID-19 assessment centres are being transmitted instantaneously to primary care clinicians’ Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) as a result of an adaptation developed with Ontario Health – Digital Services and vendor partners to OntarioMD’s Health Report Manager (HRM®).
This is a digital solution to a pressing need that has meant physicians and nurse practitioners are receiving instantaneous notices that COVID-19 test results involving their patients are available through the province’s Ontario Laboratories Information System (OLIS).
We believe digital innovation can power a healthier Canada. That’s why we’re driving and enabling innovation in health care, developing an ever-expanding portfolio of digital health tools and services that allow clinicians to practice efficiently and connect to systems across health care in real time. Our products help clinicians improve the patient experience while providing significant cost savings to health care delivery.
Today, more than 20,000 Ontario clinicians have adopted EMRs and additional award-winning digital products connected to them developed by OntarioMD.
For example, through Health Report Manager, clinicians using an OntarioMD-certified EMR can securely receive electronic patient reports from hospitals and speciality clinics directly into patients’ charts, eliminating paper, saving time, and most importantly, enabling faster follow up with patients to reduce complications and hospital readmissions.
And the Insights4Care Dashboard is an EMR-integrated population health management tool that provides insights about patients at a glance to help turn data into better outcomes through preventative care and better management of chronic illnesses.
Through EMR-integrated eConsult, clinicians can get timely access to the advice of specialists within their EMR, which may result in a timely referral or prevent an unnecessary one.
With digital tools, of course, come privacy and security issues. OntarioMD offers training, tools and resources to ensure physicians understand their role as health information custodians and can put in the safeguards to treat patient data securely and help prevent breaches.
Our services are in demand as more and more clinicians look for digital solutions, products and services that enhance patient care, and we are in discussions to expand some of our services to other jurisdictions as a result.
Only a decade ago, physicians had to rely on fax machines and the postal service to learn that their patient had been discharged from hospital.
Today, patient information from more than 500 hospital and specialty clinic sites are delivered to the EMRs of more than 11,000 clinicians across Ontario. Through HRM, more than 70 million reports have been delivered digitally – that’s more than two million reports every month.
Technology has moved the dial in health care delivery, this year, and it will continue to drive transformation over time. I can hardly wait to see what next year brings.