OntarioMD: Advancing digital health in Ontario

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Front-line health care providers, quality improvement organizations, digital health delivery leaders and government recognize that digital health delivery has become an indispensable support to keep up with increasing health system demands. It is no longer imaginable that health care could be delivered without digital information technology to manage the array of information processed and recorded for patients every minute in Ontario physician practices, hospitals, home care, long-term care homes, public health units and health care provider practices across the continuum of care. All have adopted digital health tools, in varying degrees, to manage and support patient care.

There is a lot of discussion about what digital health doesn’t do yet – the promise not yet fulfilled, and definitely the glass half empty analogy. What about the glass half full? It is truly important to understand what digital health is doing every day in the health care system.

I’m going to focus on digital health in primary care because that is the area in which we spend our time as an organization. OntarioMD has been at the forefront to rollout digital tools and services across the province to support and enable efficient and effective practice and underpinning the delivery of excellent care to patients. We are known for our success in getting electronic medical records (EMRs) into the hands of community-based family physicians and specialists. From a province with one of the lowest adoption rates when our work began, to now one of the highest. How valuable are EMRs to the health care system? They’re more valuable than people may realize. More than 15,000 physicians and more than 1,100 nurse practitioners are using them to care for about 11 million Ontarians.

EMRs in primary care enable clinicians to manage your personal health information in a secure manner. EMRs require login credentials to access information, and no charts will be misplaced or lost. Protecting personal health information is critical to all of us. EMRs are the secure virtual filing cabinet to protect your information and make it accessible only to those to whom you give consent. We take privacy and security obligations very seriously and we offer a comprehensive program to enable physicians to stay up-to-date on their obligations and how to protect your information in their EMR systems.

Let’s say you were in the hospital emergency department last week and experiencing severe abdominal pain. If your physician used an EMR, they would be getting your discharge summary about your visit from the hospital directly to the EMR through OntarioMD’s Health Report Manager (HRM). They see your discharge summary in their EMR inbox, with a summary of your visit and it is increasingly likely that they may have called you for a follow-up appointment before you call the office.

Whether you are a patient with a single lab test or you require regular laboratory tests to be performed. Physicians are sent your results electronically by the laboratory, and they can also query OLIS (Ontario Laboratory Information System) to see your results. EMRs enable the physician to display results graphically, and this makes a lot easier to review trends in your results, supporting discussions about what might be working well or where attention needs to be focused.

Prescriptions generated and managed in EMRs provide extraordinary value. With an EMR, your physician can alert about drug indications or potential conflicts with current medications. Thousands of Ontarians experience adverse events due to drug interactions every year. EMRs have helped to reduce adverse drug events. It is one of the most valuable things digital health delivers for patients and the health care system.

If your physician wants to ask a specialist about something, he or she can make a request through an online portal and get an answer often in hours. This means you don’t have to wait for months and then take time away from family or work to go to a specialist for something that could have been dealt with by your family physician. OntarioMD is working with our partners in the Ontario eConsult Program to make it even easier for physicians to request an eConsult through their EMRs. This is just one of the ways we’re connecting the health care system to benefit patients.  

Back to the glass half empty – can everyone in the health care system seamlessly exchange data electronically to care for patients? No, but we’re getting there. Ontario physicians understand that the way forward is digital. They see its value and potential by using their EMRs and connecting to OntarioMD products and services and those of our partners that augment the value of digital health to realize better patient outcomes and healthier Ontarians.  

What about the physicians who use digital health and their needs? It’s great that they’re using digital health in increasing numbers to care for patients. We care about their workflows and ensuring that they get the training and ongoing support they need.  We know that it is important to create capacity in a physician’s office to support their adoption and best use of digital health tools and services, all while they are getting on with their most important work – delivering excellent care to their patients.   

Let’s keep working together to fill that glass and realize even more value for our health care system!

Shared Experiences in Digital Health: Visit by the Norwegian Minister of Health and Care Services and Delegation to OntarioMD

Contributed by Sarah Hutchison

On January 24, OntarioMD had the honour of welcoming Norway’s Ambassador to Canada, Her Excellency, Mrs. Anne Kari Hansen Ovind, and the Minister of Health and Care Services, Mr. Bent Høie and his delegation, to our office. The purpose of the visit was to discuss common themes in digital health faced by Norway and Ontario, and how lessons learned in both jurisdictions can impact how we enable system priorities, leadership, and innovation looking forward.

The Norwegian delegation was very interested in learning about OntarioMD’s success in implementing electronic medical records (EMRs) in community-based family physician and specialist practices and how successes with EMR integrated products and services align with Ontario’s Patient’s First Digital Health strategy and priorities. While there will always be more to do, these products and services are already leading to a more connected digital health system in Ontario given the strong and connected foundation that they now represent.

We talked about the critical success factors and methodologies used to deploy products and services to physician practices. OntarioMD’s engaged EMR vendor community and our EMR Certification Program are key enablers for digital health and have created a very valuable mechanism to translate health system priorities using EMR Specifications, into EMR functionality that drives EMR use by physicians. Other   partnerships have also led to the success of our work. There are many organizations that want to deploy their products to physicians but reaching the diversity and range of physician practices across the province is a challenge.  There is increasing recognition that to be more effective as a system we must make it easier for physicians to adopt technology, being very attentive to minimizing the administrative burden for physicians and minimizing disruption at the practice level which means a responsibility to create alignment with our partners.  We also need to provide the opportunity for innovative vendors with great solutions in health care to have a delivery channel that makes sense for all.

For the adoption and sustained use of digital health products and services, robust change management support is a core ingredient.  This support is available to  physician practices anywhere in Ontario and  provided by Practice Advisors with in-depth knowledge of EMRs and other digital health products and services; a network of over 50 Peer Leaders (physicians, nurse practitioners and clinic managers) mentor and educate physicians and their staff on how to make improvements to their EMR use; and the EMR Practice Enhancement Program that provides intensive coaching for physician practices to standardize data, improve the quality and integrity of data, improve preventive care, improve internal workflow processes to enhance the patient experience and much more.  We agreed that digital health is often NOT about the availability of technology, but about creating capacity and support for the clinicians who are end users.

The delegation and OntarioMD had a lot of shared themes to discuss – from population health priorities, the impact of privacy and security, access to data, quality improvement, and patient engagement and how innovation and new technology will continue to present great opportunities and challenges alike. Norway has tackled many of these themes and has also developed methodologies and best practices that have been effective in its digital health eco-system. With increased globalization, we increasingly recognize that forums, such as the one we were privileged to participate in, will continue to advance our paradigms and challenge our thinking about the future of digital health.

Change Day Pledge

Change Day is a grassroots movement that is being adopted around the world to improve quality compassionate care. In Canada, the British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan Health Councils have all championed successful Change Days over the last two years.

Change Day Ontario has been designed to empower people within the health system to make positive changes through making pledges and taking actions, big or small, to improve compassionate quality care. The campaign is about people engaging with one another through their ideas and stories; sharing them online and through social media; overcoming barriers; and ultimately, helping to improve the experience of health care for patients and providers alike.

To make your own pledge, please visit http://www.changedayontario.ca/

 

Empowered Practices. Enhanced Care.

Since 2005, OntarioMD has helped community-based clinicians adopt and embrace electronic medical records (EMRs). Today, more than 14,000 community-based family physicians and specialists across Ontario are using OntarioMD-certified EMRs in their practices and can access OntarioMD programs and services designed to optimize their EMR use and advance the ability of digital health to modernize and improve Ontario’s health care system. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made – much of which are outlined in OntarioMD’s recently released 2016-2017 annual report.

But, with any technology, we know there’s a world of difference between adopting it and using it to its full potential. That’s why we are continually focused on our important roles as a trusted advisor and solution delivery partner to optimize and continue to advance the value of EMRs. We have a new strategic plan for 2017-2020, built around three key pillars: enhancing patient care and clinical practice as an integrator and change agent; impacting and influencing through system partnerships; driving growth and sustainability through innovation and co-creation. And we’ve selected a new Board of Directors with a broad range of experience in clinical practice, health care technology, strategy, leadership and innovation to help ensure our work is properly aligned with these strategic goals.

To truly make an impact, we need to continue to provide EMR-connected physician practices with the tools and information they need. We’ll do this by listening closely to our stakeholders and partners, and finding new ways to engage you in our work. We started this blog with that in mind.

Starting today, we’ll use the OntarioMD blog as a forum to keep you updated on our progress to advance EMRs as a core underpinning of Ontario’s digital health strategy. And we want this to be a place where you can interact with us. We encourage you to check in regularly, and use the comments feature to tell us how EMRs have made a meaningful impact to your practice and patients, and how we can help you continue to make that even better.

We are seeking to engage clinicians, health care professionals, health care organizations and certified EMR vendors to contact us if you have EMR tips, success stories or other valuable insights you’d like to share with us and our readers. Leave a comment, or email us at info@ontariomd.com. Let’s get the conversation started.

Looking forward!