At OntarioMD, we talk frequently about how we add value to the health care system by helping physicians and stakeholder partners realize digital health’s tremendous potential to improve efficiency, reduce wait times, and improve population health management and patient outcomes. That’s a key focus of our 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, and is interwoven in everything we do.
But what does this mean in practice, exactly? It means that each offering under OntarioMD’s products and services umbrella – whether it’s something developed in-house like Health Report Manager, or a product like eConsult that our head office staff and field teams deploy on behalf of one of our partners – needs to meet these objectives. And it means that the primary care providers that look to OntarioMD as a trusted advisor are confident we’ve done the work needed to ensure the products and services we bring to their practice will help them with patient care and practice efficiency.
Our ongoing work on the EMR Quality Dashboard initiative is a prime example of the rigorous testing and analysis we apply to ensure our offerings aren’t simply digital health tools, but innovations that integrate and add value to the system. We launched a proof of concept in 2015 to demonstrate how user-friendly dashboard tools use real-time EMR data for improved clinical outcomes and practice efficiency. In phase 1 of the proof of concept, we worked with vendor partners TELUS Health and OSCAR EMR, physician advisory board members and other health care sector stakeholders, to develop a framework that would allow clinicians to view their patients’ data measured against a range of widely-accepted health indicators, and to take immediate action by identifying patients in need of follow up.
We’ve since expanded both the number of health indicators incorporated into the dashboard and the number of participating clinicians. Today, more than 400 clinicians from across the province are participating in the proof of concept. Their feedback and experiences will be reflected in a benefits evaluation after phase 2 ends in December. But we already know that by using the dashboard to view their patient population data across indicators for conditions including smoking status, cancer and diabetes, participating clinicians can see and quickly respond to preventive care trends among their population.
They can also easily see where the data in the EMR appears to not match their patient care experience. For example, if the Dashboard shows that smoking status isn’t recorded for most patients, but the clinician knows it is, they can then take action to make sure the information is stored in the right place. An EMR’s potential can only be tapped into if data is being entered effectively.
In recognition of the importance of change management and ongoing support in the adoption of new tools, this initiative has incorporated the expertise of OntarioMD’s EMR Practice Enhancement Program (EPEP) practice advisors. They are deploying the Dashboard to all participating clinicians and supporting them in getting the most out of the tool. The EPEP process involves first analyzing a practice’s workflow and EMR data and then working one-on-one with clinicians to improve their data quality so that the patient information in their EMR can be effectively used for better patient care. When paired with a digital health innovation like Dashboard, that’s a powerful combination that can lead to better patient care for all.
We’re currently working on a business plan for the eventual province-wide availability of the Dashboard that will ensure that clinicians on all EMRs have access to both the tool and, crucially, the data quality support offered by OntarioMD’s EPEP team.
What do you think of when you hear the words digital health? Is it the latest medical health tracker app? Your electronic medical record? Robot doctors?
Digital health includes all these tools, and many more. But the true essence of digital health – and the reason why it’s worth celebrating with its own Digital Health Week – is something much bigger than the technology itself.
Digital health is a technology-led evolution aimed at empowering patients and clinicians. It allows us to better monitor, manage and improve our own health and well-being, while allowing clinicians to improve patient outcomes through more responsive technology and better use of patient data.
In Canada and around the world, digital health is providing tremendous clinical value through improved access to care for patients, reduced costs, cost avoidance, greater efficiencies, and better quality of care.
The work we do at OntarioMD is guided by our aim to empower physician practices and enhance the care they and their teams provide patients using EMRs and digital health. We do this through focusing on innovation, and on forging strong relationships and collaborating with health care industry partners to offer products and services that deliver measurable value to the Ontario health care system. By connecting clinicians with the right tools to meet their practice objectives and ensuring they understand how to effectively use those tools, we help them follow up faster with patients, ensure better coordination of care between all health care providers connected to a patient’s circle of care, reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions, lower wait times, and avoid administrative costs.
Consider our award-winning Health Report Manager (HRM), for example. Clinicians using an OntarioMD-certified EMR can use HRM to securely receive patient reports into their EMR from participating hospitals and specialty clinics. With HRM, primary care providers know when their patients get discharged from a hospital or specialty clinic, and all medical record and diagnostic imaging reports they need to ensure effective follow-up are transferred directly into the patient’s medical chart in their EMRs. This eliminates the need for mailed or faxed paper reports and time staff spend handling them. Most importantly, it lets clinicians be more proactive and provide patients with the quality care they need, fast.
Digital health offers the tools needed to better combat crises such as this. By tapping into the power of their EMR, clinicians can analyze their patient data to learning more about trends and demographics. Armed with this information, clinicians can identify those patients who are most at risk of opioid abuse, and monitor them to prevent addiction and overdoses.
OntarioMD’s Peer Leaders and EMR Practice Enhancement Program (EPEP) staff provide clinicians with important hands-on support to help them optimize how they input and use EMR data. Our Peer Leaders and staff have helped primary care providers learn how to use their EMRs to quickly identify their patients taking opioids, the number of different drugs prescribed, and the length of time they’ve been taking the drugs. Clinicians can then create alerts within the EMR to monitor patients on high doses and create a narcotics contract between clinician and patient that can help reduce the risk of addiction and further harm by opioids.
Whether you need help managing a high opioid risk population, or have other practice challenges and goals, OntarioMD Peer Leaders and staff are like a Geek Squad for clinicians. These clinical practice and technology experts can:
Help you better understand your EMR’s functions and tools;
Analyze your data entry and practice workflows, to improve the quality of patient data in your EMR;
Proactively use EMR patient reminders, reports, population health informatics and more to improve your population health practices;
Implement best data quality practices to access the most relevant patient information at the point of care
Digital health has the power to improve patient outcomes and help us live longer and healthier lives. But like any technology, the impact depends on the user’s understanding of how to tap into its full potential. By working with patients, clinicians, health care stakeholders and technology vendors, OntarioMD is working to advance digital health care, for the benefit of clinicians and patients across Ontario and all of Canada.
Keep up to date on digital health advances and our work by following OntarioMD on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Also, subscribe to our blog at www.ontariomd.blog and visit us online at www.ontariomd.ca for more info on all our products and services. If you have any questions or want to get connected to digital health products and services, please call us at 1-866-744-8668 or e-mail email@example.com.
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!
In this fourth entry in our video series on the EMR Quality Dashboard, OntarioMD CMO Dr. Darren Larsen discusses the importance of good data quality and how analytics can help patient care through population health management.
OntarioMD’s EMR Practice Enhancement Program (EPEP) helps you realize even more value for your patients and your practice by tapping into more of the benefits of your EMR. EPEP staff will work with you and your staff to achieve your unique practice goals, at a time that’s convenient for you. We will analyze your EMR workflow and data quality, and identify quick wins that achieve tangible results or save your valuable time. EPEP emphasizes hands-on support as you move beyond basic data capture to use your EMR for enhanced patient care and improved practice efficiency.
Today’s Digital Health Shift vlog is the third in a video series of OntarioMD CMO, Dr. Darren Larsen, speaking about the EMR Quality Dashboard. In this segment, Dr. Larsen discusses how leadership and collaboration amongst health care organizations are driving change to benefit patient care.
Submitted by Amanda Story, OntarioMD Practice Advisor
On April 11, 2017, at the Muskoka Algonquin Health Centre in Huntsville, my third child was born. Clark was a perfect 19 inches long and 7.7 pounds, with a full head of hair. But things quickly got scary, when his blood sugar and body temperature began dropping and his breathing became irregular. He was stabilized, and we were transferred to Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital.
Little did we know our journey with Kabuki Syndrome was about to begin. Kabuki syndrome is a rare, multisystem disorder characterized by multiple abnormalities including facial features, growth delays, varying degrees of intellectual disability, skeletal abnormalities, and short stature. There’s also the potential for a wide variety of additional symptoms affecting different organ systems. Kabuki syndrome affects males and females in equal numbers, and specific symptoms can vary greatly from one person to another. The incidence of Kabuki syndrome has been estimated to be somewhere between 1 in 32,000 to 1 in 86,000 individuals in the general population.
Sick Kids Hospital was up and running on a computerized charting system, and was able to get all the test results from our local hospital quickly. It was amazing how hospital information flowed – physicians of all specialties sharing one chart, no test duplication, everyone knowing and seeing what had been ordered, what was pending and what the plan was. I was a stressed out, tired and scared mom, and I appreciated not having to repeat Clark’s history over and over again. When Clark would decide to throw a wrench in the plan, it was easy for the nurse and I to note it and a message was sent to the physician to get new orders and/or a new plan. The digital health system made it easy for the changes to be communicated to his entire team of cardiologists, respirologists, and endocrinologists.
Eventually Clark rallied, and we were transferred closer to home, to The North Bay Regional Health Centre. It was a big adjustment. We were surprised that communication between Sick Kids and North Bay Regional Health Centre was by paper and mail. When Clark regressed a bit, it was hard to compare results, causing duplicate tests and delayed treatment while phone calls were made to discuss results. We had experienced the power of digital health at Sick Kids, and appreciated how all the health care providers were connected. At the time, North Bay didn’t offer this – though it has since implemented a computerized system. It did offer video conference calls through the Ontario Telemedicine Network’s system, which allowed Clark’s entire team to connect and get his treatment back on track.
We finally made it home after a couple more weeks. Unfortunately, our stay at home was short. Within a couple of months, Clark caught a cold and a bad cough. We quickly took him back to North Bay Regional Health Centre, where he was admitted and put under observation. After the first 24 hours, Clark got worse. The following day, he went from needing a little bit of oxygen support to needing to be intubated and rushed to The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), which had been consulted during his rapid decline. During transportation, his heart got tired and arrested from working so hard to make up for the decreased lung function. The amazing transfer team from Ornge was able to revive him quickly en route to CHEO. The Pediatric Intensive Care unit was ready and had pulled together a team to assess him and move him to extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which is a heart and lung bypass to allow him to heal.
CHEO had just implemented a computerized charting system called EPIC. It allowed the hospital to flow information around his care, similar to what we’d seen at Sick Kids. Everyone could see and use the same information in real time to assist with coordinating Clark’s care. His entire team at CHEO – Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), cardiology, vascular surgery, perfusionists, respirology, genetics immunology, infection control, physiotherapy and pain and symptom management, along with imaging and pharmacy, were all working in one chart around a single patient. This was digital health at its best – facilitating communications and transitions in care.
Our family physician was also kept informed through her office EMR, using Health Report Manager (HRM) to get Clark’s hospital reports quickly and keep up to date on his progress. I received many phone calls for support and counselling without having to give updates or go into details. It very much kept me sane during a very scary time.
When Clark was able to be transferred to recovery, the same chart, same information and same teams followed him. Even after discharge, the amazing efficiency of digital health still helps us to this day with his scheduled follow-ups. Each team can communicate and coordinate his appointments into clusters that help us save travel time, and tests and procedures can be grouped together to help minimize Clark’s discomfort.
I am very thankful for the adoption of digital health by Ontario hospitals and health care providers. I’ve seen the high level of accuracy and understanding it offered to everyone involved in Clark’s care. It made me feel comfortable and confident that the physicians had access to everything they needed all in one shareable electronic record. Clark’s medical information followed him wherever he was treated. Digital health has helped connect all the hospitals we visited with Clark, so they could share information and make the best decisions for his care. The digital health change in our health care system is also providing more information quickly and easily to family physicians everywhere in the province. Keeping physicians up to date to provide supportive care to caregivers and other family members is easier and faster. I am convinced that digital health is removing many barriers to efficient and effective health care in Ontario, and I honestly believe it helped save my baby’s life!
Clark is growing stronger daily. We have celebrated many “inchstones” such as regaining head and neck control and re-learning how to roll over, along with a few milestones such as pulling his socks off. He is a very happy baby that brings so much light into our lives.
Dr. Darren Larsen is Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) at OntarioMD. As CMIO, Darren provides clinical advice to many provincial and national steering committees and clinician advisory groups and has been instrumental in forging system-level partnerships in many sectors. Darren is a tireless champion of optimization of EMRs and health informatics in empowering Ontario’s physicians, with a focus on quality patient care and practice efficiency. He provides a clinician perspective and guides all aspects of OntarioMD’s work to evolve and advance EMRs and digital health for primary care and community specialist clinics. This includes clinical practice change, quality improvement, data quality and analytics, and EMR maturity measurement. He recently shared his insights with RDP Associates on the state of innovation in Canada’s digital health sector.
Canada’s biotech and health-tech industries are among the most dynamic and innovative sub-sectors of the tech industry. But despite its dynamism, scaling up and go-to-market remain pressing challenges. Why is that?
Indeed, Canadian minds are anteing up some amazing ideas in the digital health space. We have such a strong well to draw upon for creativity and innovation. There is an endless need for new products, services and thinking in health care, for patients, providers and the health system, yet despite the demand, it is incredibly hard to bring innovation to market. I frequently say that real change requires resolution not revolution, and it is hard to maintain excitement and enthusiasm when the system falls short of the needs of innovators beyond the ideation phase. The reasons for this are complex, but some key issues that we could collectively work on to try to improve the situation quickly bubble up.
a) There is very low tolerance for failure in health care. Some of this is predictable, based on clinicians’ training in evidence. Some fall at the health system level, where even small failures lead to blame rather than learning, and it often becomes a story on the front pages of a newspaper. Some of this is even cultural. As Canadians, we do not trust our own innovators until they have been proven in another market or immediately hit the news.
b) Our classic public-sector procurement rules are complicated and hard to navigate. This leads to a bias toward established companies which have greater capability to persist and respond.
c) There is a basic distrust of business in our socialized health care system. The private sector is viewed with suspicion, and the introduction of profit motives makes those of us who believe and have invested in socialized medicine, somewhat wary. We must find a middle ground.
d) Regulatory issues abound in health-tech, from Health Canada medical device status rules, to technical standards often being vague, to privacy legislation being used as an excuse to stop innovation even when it is designed to permit it.
e) The investment/venture capital landscape is different and less permissive in Canada than it is in the US. It is frankly easier to find investors and backers south of the border than it is within our own country.
f) The desire to take a chance on promoting and partnering with new companies is low in Canada. We are guilty of “death by a thousand pilot projects” and accept this as the norm. Most pilots are created to test a very narrow product or service window of safety rather than facilitate scale and spread of the same. Unlike in the start-up space, in healthcare, we lack the “fail fast and fail forward mentality”, which is essential to the innovative process.
Many government grants are generic, but some are industry-specific such as those for clean-tech and agri-tech. Do we need specific grants that target biotech and health-tech sectors to ease some of the challenges they’re facing?
This might well be an option to try. The use of grant money could be tied to co-design or creative procurement that does not predict the final end-point for a product, but rather allows it to evolve organically until it reaches a desired state or value. Design thinking methodology could, and likely should be placed into the grant awarding process. Technology engineers, designers, and providers must align to ensure that they have created a product or service that is actually needed. Then, a shift to value-based funding and support might ensure ongoing success. Currently, many innovation grants do not consider scale and spread of an idea or product. There are incubators that provide in-kind expertise rather than cash. And there are investors who want to see successful companies move forward. The sweet spot is combining these in partnerships.
How would you describe the relationship between the government and Canada’s tech sector including its startup community? Where do health-tech and health care fit into their dynamics?
I possess a cautious optimism in this space. There is certainly an increase in the promotion of start-ups and a growing community of innovators who network and learn from each other. Also, we are seeing some fantastic government-supported or -partnered innovation hubs like MaRS, McMaster Innovation Park, the BMZ and DMZ at Ryerson University, and Velocity at the University of Waterloo, which are great as examples in Ontario alone (and more nationally: Ontario even has a Chief Health Innovation Strategist in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, William Charnetski. These are great starts, but these are early days and this is still nascent work. It will take a long time to change a culture.
Are there sub-sectors of Canadian healthcare that conduct a significant amount of R&D?
I see a lot of progress in Canada now with the creation of health care “living labs“. These are unique spaces where partnerships are used to test products in working environments like hospital units (Mackenzie Health, Southlake Hospital) or human-centred design spaces (UHN Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, JLabs by Johnson and Johnson, Bridgepoint Active Healthcare) or digital health evaluation spaces (MEDIC at Mohawk College, WIHV at Women`s College Hospital). These serve as platforms for integrated thinking about solving clinical problems using integrated technology, not as siloed projects that are procured individually. I believe these may be our future.
What is your definition of a ‘value-based healthcare system’ and what are its key defining parameters?
Value takes many forms and changes according to who is looking for it and what their goal is. Certainly, from the government’s perspective, the value can be calculated in the ratio of quality (or outcomes) over cost. This is very important when setting budgets and ensuring that they are getting what they pay for. This is often the default value proposition in a publicly-funded health system, and it is indeed important.
Value, as measured by a patient, is a whole other proposition. They may value being listened to, having a concern demystified, or simply being told they will be fine.
The clinician perspective exists in the intersection of the health system and patient lived experience. We face the multifaceted challenges of unprecedented demographic change, medical system evolution, and continual demands to innovate every day. But on the positive side, this can challenge physicians in creating solutions.
Ultimately, the value can be only generated in trusted relationships. All three players in healthcare (funder, provider, patient) must work on mutual trust to achieve common goals. This is more than value; it is being valuable.
Do you think the newly revamped tax laws in the U.S could be incentivizing Canadian health-tech companies to move south?
Certainly, permissive tax rules may have an influence, but I believe that tech companies venture south before developing a strong presence in Canada for some far more basic reasons. The US market is much larger. An entrepreneurial spirit is deeply ingrained in American culture. There is greater degree of tolerance for failure. There is much more capital to draw upon from investors who are willing to take a chance on health-tech, knowing that they will win some and they will lose some. Still, there are challenges in the US too. It is a dog-eat-dog world in health care south of our border. Sometimes the stories of speed in success or failure are a distraction from a business purpose that enables longevity. Real change requires resolution rather than revolution.
This interview was conducted by Reza Akhlaghi, a digital content and social media strategist at RDP Associates.
Contributed by Hinna Hatif and Neil Faba, OntarioMD Communications and Marketing
As communications professionals with journalism backgrounds, we’ve both had a front-row seat to rapid change in the industry. In our case, we’re also focused on the changes that digital health has brought to the health care system. From the advent of online media to social media’s proven ability to put storytelling in the hands of those directly involved in the stories, the media landscape has shifted significantly over just two decades.
Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms are shaking up many other industries, too, including health care. Today, many physicians and other health care professionals are active social media users, portraying their passion for the industry and its advancements in patient care via photos and videos, posts and tweets.
To better understand the way digital and social technology is shifting traditional and digital health care as well as journalism, we recently attended a panel discussion titled Healthcare Journalism in the Age of Twitter, hosted by Longwoods Publishing as part of their Breakfast with the Chiefs series. The panel included two journalists representing different generations and media institutions: Andre Picard a reporter and health policy columnist at The Globe and Mail for more than 30 years; and Rachel Browne, a Senior Reporter at Vice News who’s just a few years into her career. The discussion was moderated by Judith Jones, a patient advocate and communications specialist who was the keynote speaker at OntarioMD’s EMR: Every Step Conference last fall in Toronto. Andre’s name is almost synonymous with health care on Twitter, with more than 70,000 people following his account @picardonhealth. Rachel, who covers a broad range of health and other topics, is also a very active user as the author of more than 10,000 tweets on her account @rp_browne.
The discussion started out with some thoughts on how news agencies are faring in this changing landscape, while faced with cutbacks, financial pressures, and increasing competition to capture people’s attention. While The Globe and Mail and Vice Media have different histories and cater to very different audiences, the two journalists on the panel agreed that they share a lot of commonality when it comes to their struggles In the face of these challenges.
We’re living in a time where we have near instant access to more information than ever before. On the other hand, we’re barraged by fake news and incorrect information that is sometimes even reported by reliable news outlets because of the competition and demand the 24/7 news cycle brings.
“For people who know how to use the media, it’s the greatest time in history right now,” commented Andre Picard. “You can get everything you want and more. For those who are not interested, which is a growing segment of the population, it’s a waste land of fake news. It’s a dichotomy that’s troubling that one group is getting much larger and the other group is not.” As chilling as this sentiment seems, Rachel Browne offered a glimmer of hope: “there is a strong desire now more than ever for good quality content that’s different, that’s approachable, that’s informative, that’s going to stay and inform the reader beyond just reading the article, and maybe even inform policy decisions.”
Both Andre and Rachel agreed that for the public to get accurate, good quality information from media outlets – particularly when it comes to important subjects like health care where people’s lives literally hang in the balance – journalists need to be able to get their hands-on quality data on key issues like the opioid crisis. But this is often difficult, or – in the case of opioids where few reliable national stats exist – impossible. Rachel and Andre advised the audience – comprised mostly of members of the health care industry – to work closely with journalists, PR people and others to help fill in the gaps and tell the stories that need to reach Canadians.
The panellists offered some useful tips on how health care communicators and industry leaders could work collaboratively with journalists to help share information that can drive policy decisions:
Form collaborative working relationships with journalists, to understand what issues are on their radar. Many large media outlets have project editors, who can share which topics are being considered for long-term reporting projects and can help organizations understand how they can help shape the story;
Understand media outlets’ different audiences, and tailor pitches accordingly. With so many news outlets focused on specific target audiences, understanding how different media focus their reporting can help you tailor your messaging;
Facilitate journalists’ access to patients who are willing to tell their health care stories, to add a human face to the issue. At the same time, it’s important that communications people prep those patients so they understand the extra attention they may receive by sharing their experiences.
To listen to the whole panel discussion, please click here.
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.