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Digital Health Myths

Digital health is transforming the way Canadians access health care as more and more are able to view their personal health history online, connect with their care provider through a virtual setting, and e-book medical appointments. It has also changed workflows for clinicians who are able to pull up information about their patients as needed and whose patients may now be able to also access their health information. This has created some uncertainty and concerns — not always based on the facts — about what digital health means for Canadians as well as clinicians. We set out to dispel some of these myths.

Myth: I won’t understand my lab results if I access them online because they are too complicated.

Fact: In a study, 76% of patients who first saw their lab results online were confident they understood the results.

The study also showed patients who view their results online are no more anxious than those who don’t. In fact, people with chronic conditions are less anxious when they get their results online. Timely access to lab test results is an important part of patient engagement and empowerment, which are directly linked to improved chronic disease management.

Source: Mák G, Smith Fowler H, Leaver C, Hagens S, Zelmer J, “The Effects of Web-Based Patient Access to Laboratory Results in British Columbia: A Patient Survey on Comprehension and Anxiety,” J Med Internet Res 2015;17(8):e191 DOI: 10.2196/jmir.4350

Myth: The introduction of virtual visits means I won’t see my doctor anymore.

Fact: Face-to-face visits will remain a cornerstone of primary care, but sometimes an in-person visit isn’t required.

According to research, patients who opt for virtual visits do so to save time, gain faster access to care and avoid a work absence. Virtual visits can also enable continuity of care for those in remote communities, requiring less travel.

Source: Virtual Visits in British Columbia: 2015 Patients Survey and Physician Interview Study

Myth: The quality of care offered in a virtual visit is not as good as the care in a face-to-face visit.

Fact: While in-person visits are essential in some cases, there are many scenarios in which virtual visits can provide the same standard of care. A BC study found 79% of patients who had a virtual visit said the quality of care was the same as in an in-person visit. 91% said the online visit helped them with the health issue for which they needed the appointment.

Source: Virtual Visits in British Columbia: 2015 Patients Survey and Physician Interview Study

Myth: Digital health will marginalize populations who may not have online access.

Fact: Many Canadians face barriers to access to care and virtual care helps reduce those barriers.

Digital health can also reduce marginalization for people with mobility issues. For example, some Canadian initiatives and programs support access to certain populations by providing smartphones or remote monitoring equipment to participants.

For more information, see: http://bit.ly/2lsEVgR, http://bit.ly/2mm8Co2 and http://bit.ly/2mmhslE

Myth: Digital health is only for the young and tech savvy.

Fact: Canadians are very connected, including seniors. 88.5% of Canadian households have Internet access.

Digital health offers important opportunities for advancing care for seniors through programs such as telehomecare. In a study in which the average age of respondents was 75 to 84, 98.3% of telehomecare patients were satisfied with the program. Additionally, growth in the availability of digital health services for Canadians more than doubled between 2014 and 2016.

Source: Internet Live Stats: http://bit.ly/1WSWBPv. OTN Telehomecare Patient Experience Survey Summary, 2016. Connecting Patients for Better Health: 2016.

Myth: If patients are able to view lab test results online before talking to their doctors, they will be overly anxious.

Fact: Patients who view their results online are no more anxious than those who wait to learn about them in person. A study showed 93% of patients who accessed their lab results online said they had more informed discussions with their doctor. Additionally, patients with one or more chronic conditions were less likely to report being anxious.

For more information, see: Mák G, Smith Fowler H, Leaver C, Hagens S, Zelmer J, “The Effects of Web-Based Patient Access to Laboratory Results in British Columbia: A Patient Survey on Comprehension and Anxiety,” J Med Internet Res 2015;17(8):e191 DOI: 10.2196/jmir.4350

Myth: Doctors will be flooded with calls if patients have access to their lab results online.

Fact: Patients who have access to their lab results online are less likely to call their physicians while waiting for results and they’re less likely to have an in-person visit related to their results. Additionally, patients who have access to their health information through a patient portal are less likely to call or make requests for information, with one Ontario study finding a 61% decrease in requests for information when a patient portal became available.

Source: Impacts of direct patient access to laboratory results – Final Report, August 2015, SRDC. Ontario Shores’ HealthCheck Patient Portal Benefits Evaluation Report, 2016. See also: Group Health Centre’s myCARE Benefits Evaluation Plan, 2016.

Myth: Patients don’t want to see their health information and won’t find the information useful.

Fact: 69% of Canadians who don’t currently have online access to their medical records would like access.

Furthermore, Canadians who do have access find it beneficial. In one study, 94% of patients who use portals said they valued viewing their health information online. Another 74% of Canadians with access to digital health say it helps them have more informed discussions with their doctor.

Source: Connecting Patients for Better Health: 2016. myCARE Benefits Evaluation and Final Report, Group Health Centre, 2016.

Myth: Virtual visits are only for patients living in remote communities.

Fact: Canada is a world leader in the use of telehealth, which has revolutionized access to care in remote communities. In fact, many Canadians face barriers to accessing care regardless of where they live, and virtual visits can reduce these barriers, such as taking time off work for an appointment and transportation and childcare costs.

Source: Telehealth Benefits and Adoption: Connecting People and Providers (Summary), 2011. Valuing Time Saved: Assessing the Impact of Patient Time Saved from the Adoption of Consumer Health Solutions, Conference Board of Canada, September 2012.

Myth: Patient-doctor relationships suffer when there is a computer screen in the exam room.

Fact: Technology does not impact the quality of the interaction.

In fact, electronic records provide complete patient information and historical information at the point of care. Almost two thirds (65%) of physicians who used electronic records reported better or much better quality of care since implementation.

Source: Perceptions Around Patient-Provider Interaction: http://bit.ly/2aYhLwX. 2014 National Physician Survey.

Myth: Digital health is just for health care providers.

Fact: 69% of Canadians who don’t currently have online access to their medical records would like access.

Growth in the availability of digital health services for Canadians more than doubled between 2014 and 2016. Providing patients with timely access to their health information is an important part of patient engagement and empowerment, which are directly linked to improved chronic disease management.

Source: Connecting Patients for Better Health: 2016. “The Case for the Connected Patient,” Health Care Information Management & Communications Canada: http://bit.ly/2n4PRpZ. See also: http://bit.ly/1L5MLIy

Myth: My doctor receives all the information needed to provide my care.

Fact: There is still work to be done to connect points of information. 1 in 5 patient interactions in primary care environments and 1 in 3 in long-term care settings were found to be missing relevant clinical information (i.e., hospital visit/discharge notes, specialist notes, diagnostic imaging, lab tests). Not having relevant clinical information at the time of patient encounters impacts patient safety, the patient experience, clinicians’ ability to provide care and overall health system costs.

Source: Bridging the information gaps during patient encounters across care settings (Publication pending). See also: http://bit.ly/2tz5FS0.

Myth: There has been little to no progress in digital health in Canada.

Fact: The key components of Canadians’ health records are now 93.8% digitized and available electronically.

73% of family physicians in Canada were using an electronic medical record (EMR) in 2015, up from 23% in 2006. Additionally, growth in the availability of digital health services for Canadians more than doubled between 2014 and 2016.

Source: Canada Health Infoway Annual Report 2015-2016: A Conversation about Digital Health. Connecting Patients for Better Health: 2016. See also: http://bit.ly/1L5MLIy

Myth: Allowing patients to book appointments online (e-booking) means clinicians will lose control over their schedule and won’t be able to see urgent cases.

Fact: e-Booking can allow physicians to customize their schedules so they can block time for urgent cases in a way that suits their needs and practice model. e-Booking also reduces no shows due to system reminders, frees up staff time and increases patient satisfaction.

Source: White Paper: Exploring the Value, Benefits and Common Concerns of e-Booking. Adoption, Use and Effects of an e-appointment System: Results of a Quebec Showcase Project.

Myth: The government and insurance companies will be able to see my digital health records.

Fact: All provinces and territories in Canada have laws that protect the confidentiality of your personal health information. Governments and insurance companies do not have access to the identifiable information in your digital health records. There are only certain circumstances (lawful purposes) such as public health situations or when you have provided consent, when your identifiable data may be disclosed to them.

For more information, see: www.BetterHealthTogether.ca/privacy

Myth: Canada has spent billions of dollars on digital health with nothing to show for it.

Fact: Substantial progress has been made in Canada, with the key components of Canadians’ health records now 93.8% digitized and available electronically. Digital health empowers Canadians to become members of their care teams, enables clinicians to make more informed decisions and results in efficiencies for the health care system. Digital health has produced an estimated $16 billion in benefits since 2007.

Source: Canada Health Infoway Annual Report 2015-2016: A Conversation about Digital Health

Myth: I don’t have a right to access my health record.

Fact: Your health care provider is the custodian (trustee) of your health record, responsible for proper use and management of the record. However, the information in the record is yours and you have a right to access it. You can access it through a formal request process, as outlined in law, but many custodians are pleased to share the information if you ask to see it and, in fact, many custodians are creating online portals or personal health record systems that patients can access whenever they wish.

For more information, see: http://bit.ly/1d1eyd5 and www.BetterHealthTogether.ca/privacy

Your Myths Explored

We asked you to submit digital health myths you’d like our help debunking. Here are the myths you asked us to bust.

Myth: Digital Health Apps Are Not Evidence-based and Do Not Work

We chatted with Dr. Kendall Ho on whether digital health apps work and are evidence-based. Read the blog post.

Myth: Physicians who use electronic medical records (EMRs) see fewer patients per day than those who use paper.

Fact: While practices may slow during implementation, Canadian studies show that EMRs do not adversely affect a physician’s ability to see patients. One study looked at billings before and after EMR implementation and found no decreased billings or government payments for office visits. Another study of practice finances showed that, in fact, community-based practices quickly experience efficiencies in workflow as staff time is redeployed and actually increase active-patients-to-clinician-FTE ratio to positively increase clinic net revenue. Clinics recoup their investment in an EMR in 10 months on average.

EMRs also result in health system-level benefits, such as reduced numbers of duplicate tests and adverse drug events.

Source: Effects of implementing electronic medical records on primary care billings and payments: a before–after study: http://bit.ly/2rdqa4Q. Return on Investment in Electronic Health Records in Primary Care Practices: A Mixed-Methods Study: http://bit.ly/1u37zTv. The Emerging Benefits of Electronic Medical Record Use in Community-Based Care: Executive Summary: http://bit.ly/2sjs4o0.

Greater access to their health information and timely access to health care providers can empower patients with chr… https://t.co/YJoT8ZCitD

by Infoway

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