What is a Patient Summary?

A patient summary is not a patient’s entire health record, but a portion of it. It’s comprised of a standardized collection of patient information: the necessary minimum and sufficient data to inform a patient’s treatment at a point of care. It may include elements like a patient’s medications, allergies and immunizations.

Patient Summaries enhance patient safety by ensuring critical information is readily accessible when it’s needed most, like an unexpected visit to the emergency room or walk-in clinic. With access to key information from patient health records, clinicians across disciplines can provide more informed, consistent care.

Patient Summaries benefit clinicians by improving workflow, reducing paperwork and other types of administrative burden.

International Patient Summary

In 2021, Canada and the other G7 nations committed to “…work towards adopting a standardised minimum health dataset for patients’ health information, including through the International Patient Summary (IPS) standard.”

The IPS enables important information from patient summaries to be shared across regions and countries in a standardized way. Several international efforts are underway to advance work on the IPS, including within the Global Digital Health Partnership (GDHP), an international collaboration of governments, government agencies, countries and territories and the World Health Organization.

Patient Summary in Canada

With the increased use of virtual care, it’s important that digital health care information systems across provinces, territories, and care settings are interoperable: that they all "speak the same language.” That’s why Infoway is advancing the pan-Canadian Patient Summary Specification (PS-CA), a guideline that defines the terminology that information systems across provinces, territories, languages, and specialties use to communicate with one another. 

The PS-CA is just one part of a national collaborative effort by Infoway, provinces & territories, health technology vendors, and the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). This pan-Canadian initiative will standardize the terminology that health information systems use to securely share information, enabling patient data — including patient summaries — to flow seamlessly between different systems.

Aligning with International Standards

In October 2022, the first iteration of the PS-CA, based on the IHE International Patient Summary (IPS) specification and the HL7 IPS Implementation Guide, was reviewed and approved. The PS-CA is based on the IPS specification, as defined by IHE, HL7 and ISO/DIS 27269. The IPS and the PS-CA will continue to develop alongside one another, drawing input from implementers and community to strengthen their alignment. Both specifications will set the foundation that will allow the patient summary to be shared between care settings, regardless of specialty or condition (scheduled, unscheduled, or in transition).

Because the PS-CA is based upon the IPS, but is not the IPS, the provinces and territories will be able to configure its building blocks to address any necessary variances while ensuring alignment to the IPS specification.
People stacking wooden blocks
The PS-CA can work within the local environment while still aligning to international standards and supporting information sharing between providers, organizations and jurisdictions.

By the Numbers

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Pan-Canadian Projectathon

In collaboration with the provinces and territories, Infoway invited vendors to participate in our second Projectathon, held March 20-23, 2023. Projectathons are an important step and best practice approach in testing and validation of a specification package. The March 2023 Projectathon was dedicated to supporting Patient Summary implementation projects across Canada, convening vendors to test and collaborate on the specific use cases within the PS-CA. Among other objectives, the event sought to:
  • Enable vendors to demonstrate the ability to implement the IPS-aligned PS-CA and pan-Canadian FHIR Exchange (CA:FeX) specifications for the secure exchange of well-formed patient summaries
  • Communicate next steps and future planning for the Shared Pan-Canadian Interoperability Roadmap, especially regarding PS-CA and CA:FeX specifications
The 2023 Projectathon represented a significant milestone in our journey toward pan-Canadian interoperability. Learnings from the event will be aligned with Infoway’s vendor mobilization strategy, complementary to the Shared Pan-Canadian Interoperability Roadmap, and Infoway will continue to work toward progressing pan-Canadian interoperability initiatives.

Learn more about Projectathon 2023 by checking out our final report or go behind the scenes by tuning in to our podcast episode.

Stay up to the date with the latest events, discussions and more by visiting the Patient Summaries Working Group on InfoCentral.  Learn more about the PS-CA specification and its releases on InfoScribe.

“Implementing the trial pan-Canadian patient summary specification, as well as testing secure exchange transactions, is not only a step in the right direction for interoperability in Canadian health care but it allowed us to get advanced preparations in place for upcoming provincial implementations.”

– Microquest, Projectathon 2023 participant

What's Next

The PS-CA is undergoing development and will be released in phases. Release #1 will establish the standards required to launch Patient Summaries within Canada, providing a guideline for their use in situations that clinicians have identified as priority. This includes scheduled and unscheduled local care settings. Future releases will expand to support additional scenarios, including cross-border care.

Vist InfoScribe to provide feedback and learn more about specific releases of the PS-CA specification.

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