In September 2000, Canada’s First Ministers agreed to work together to strengthen a Canada-wide health infostructure to improve quality, access and timeliness of health care for Canadians. They also committed to develop electronic health records (EHRs), enhance the use of enabling technologies like telehealth, and work collaboratively to develop common data standards to ensure the compatibility of health information.
In October 2000, the Government of Canada announced its intention to help establish Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) as an independent, not-for-profit corporation with an initial investment of $500 million. On January 22, 2001, Infoway was incorporated by Letters Patent and it began active operations on March 21, 2001.
Infoway receives its funding from Health Canada through single or multi-year funding/contribution agreements. Since inception, Infoway has received $2.5 billion (includes $50 million commitment for virtual care made in 2020).
$500 million for electronic medical records (EMRs), EHRs and consumer health projects
$50 million over two years for e-prescribing ($40 million) and telehomecare ($10 million)
$300 million over five years to expand virtual care initiatives and e-prescribing, supporting the continued adoption and use of EMRs, helping patients to access their health records electronically, and better linking EHR systems to improve access by all providers and institutions
$50 million commitment to launch a new investment program for virtual care that will include providing up to $2 million per jurisdiction aligned to bilateral agreements
Return on Investment
We estimate that since our inception, Infoway’s investments in digital health initiatives have exceeded $43 billion in benefits (cost savings and efficiencies) to Canadians and our health system, including $7.4 billion in 2020-2021. This includes investments in: connected health information (e.g., diagnostic imaging, drug and laboratory information systems), point-of-care systems (e.g., electronic medical records, telehealth) and virtual care (e.g., video and secure messages).
In our early years, we worked with the provinces and territories to co-invest in the six foundational systems of an EHR — client and provider demographics, diagnostic imaging in hospitals, profiles of dispensed drugs, laboratory test results and clinical reports or immunizations. We also supported pan-Canadian projects for architecture and standards, and led the creation of the EHR Blueprint to provide a much-needed business and technical framework to shape the country’s efforts.
We then shifted our focus to the tools clinicians need to support greater efficiency and better patient care, and we co-invested in EMRs, public health surveillance solutions, and telehealth and other point-of-care solutions.
In 2017, when the foundational systems were largely in place and connected, and electronic tools were available for and being used by clinicians, we implemented a five-year strategy called Driving Access to Care to focus on initiatives to empower Canadians and strengthen their care teams. This included safer medication management through PrescribeIT®, Canada’s national e-prescribing service, and a program to give Canadians and their providers online access to personal health information and digitally-enabled health services.
In 2019, we undertook a national consultation with Canadians about their needs, expectations and concerns about the future of their health system, as well as the role of technology in the delivery of better health care. The results of this initiative, called A Healthy Dialogue, were used to inform further consultations in 2020 and 2021 to stimulate a national dialogue about how to achieve the best future for Canada’s health system. This work is ongoing.
In 2020, driven by the urgent need to ramp up virtual care to keep patients and clinicians safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, we refreshed our strategy to focus on virtual care and PrescribeIT®. We also formed the Innovative Technologies group to focus on how innovative technologies can be applied to health care.
PrescribeIT® enables prescribers and pharmacists to electronically create, receive, renew and cancel prescriptions through communication between a prescriber’s EMR and the pharmacy management system (PMS) of a patient’s preferred pharmacy. This results in more efficient patient care, enhanced safety and greater accuracy when filling prescriptions. It’s also more convenient for patients, who don’t have to take paper prescriptions to their pharmacy.
PrescribeIT® operations began during 2016-2017 when we chose the name for the service, developed detailed e-prescribing technology requirements (including privacy and security), and issued a Request for Proposal to procure a vendor to design, build and operate the service. TELUS Health was selected, and the first prescription was sent through PrescribeIT® in Huntsville, Ontario on August 30, 2017.
As of March 31, 2021, PrescribeIT® has:
- A Memorandum of Understanding in place with all 13 provinces and territories and is live in five jurisdictions
- 6,233 prescribers and 4,839 pharmacies enrolled
- Market presence in approximately 60 per cent of all pharmacies across Canada
- 17 EMR vendors onboard, representing approximately 95 per cent of the primary care market
- Eight PMS vendors onboard, accounting for 85 per cent of the retail pharmacy market
Awards & Recognition
Dr. Peter W. Vaughan was appointed Chair of the Infoway Board of Directors effective March 1, 2017, succeeding Graham Scott.
Michael Green was appointed President and CEO of Infoway effective August 1, 2014, succeeding Richard Alvarez.