EMR Adoption in Canada on the Rise

By Chad Leaver

Six years ago when I began my role at Infoway, adoption of electronic medial records among primary care practices in Canada was at 56 per cent. In the next two years, through partnerships and collaboration we established a growing body of evidence supporting the value of EMR use in primary care and released a national study in 2013 estimating the emerging value of EMR use in community-based care at $1.3 billion.

The Canadian Medical Association’s 2017 CMA Workforce Survey now shows EMR use among primary care physicians in Canada at 85 per cent. This is a testament to the commitment of primary care physicians in Canada to advance EMR adoption and modernize their practices to support patient care and operational efficiencies.

On August 31, the CMA released results of the 2017 Physician Workforce Survey, which examined what it means to be a doctor in Canada, examining factors such as working hours, training, job satisfaction and use of technology. Over fifty-nine thousand (59,320) physicians in primary care and specialist practices in Canada were invited by the CMA to complete the survey, and 7,184 responded (a response rate of 12 per cent). Most provinces saw growth in primary care adoption of EMRs since 2014, with Quebec showing the highest increase in growth with adoption rates currently at 78 per cent. Alberta continues to lead the country with a 91 per cent adoption rate among family docs.

Infoway was particularly interested in the results regarding digital health. One factor of special interest is the sharing of information across care settings. Sixty-four per cent of primary care physicians in Canada report using electronically transmitted hospital discharge reports, which enables continuity of care. Results related to citizen access to their health information and primary care offerings of consumer e-services, however, show ample room for improvement. These include:

  • Patient’s ability to view their health record online (e-view) and book an appointment online (e-booking).
  • Citizen access to their own record, with the capacity to add text notes, documentation, and/or upload digital measurements from smart connected devices or mobile apps is estimated at two per cent.

Further to this, Nova Scotia reports the highest level of patient-controlled health records at six per cent.

The acceleration of EMR adoption in primary care practice across Canada is worth celebrating. At the same time, there is a significant opportunity to drive citizen access to their health records, offer e-services and advance quality outcomes at the patient and system level. Continued dialogue and ongoing monitoring of progress to support the scale and spread of EMRs will mark Canada’s ongoing journey towards advancing quality of care outcomes for Canadians and system sustainability.

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About the author
Chad Leaver

Chad Leaver

Chad Leaver leads national research, evaluation and communication efforts for Infoway’s Evaluation Services and Consumer Health & Innovation investment portfolios.