In the 2020 Public Health Agency of Canada report, From Risk to Resilience: An Equity Approach to COVID-19, Dr. Theresa Tam acknowledged the importance of Indigenous leadership, resilience and success during COVID-19. Successes exemplified by First Nations on reserve included lower COVID-19 hospitalizations (8.4 per cent compared to 13.4 per cent for general population), and lower death rates (1.4 per cent compared to 7.1 per cent) for reported cases.
Digital health technology is not going to magically bridge all the barriers to health care access, but it can be taken up as one very useful component. In my work with Mustimuhw Information Solutions (MIS), an Indigenous software development company fully owned by Cowichan Tribes, we take part in the “digital journeys” of the First Nations we work with.
A good example is a journey that MIS and Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) participated in together with First Nations across the country called the National Community Electronic Medical Record Expansion. This consisted of many journeys by First Nations communities to move away from paper-based records and to go forward with an Indigenous designed digital health tool called the Mustimuhw Community Electronic Medical Record (cEMR).
Numerous efficiencies, improved care coordination and client safety outcomes were realized for communities as a result of their efforts. It is this journey that creates the change, and those making the journey that close the gap or resolve a disparity. As with any successful journey, it really has become part of a larger or continued transition.
Having a digital health foundation has enabled communities to mobilize around other areas to improve health care access. Currently, we are actively involved in leveraging e-prescribing tools like Infoway’s PrescribeIT®, which is especially beneficial in remote and rural communities where the prescriber or pharmacy (and sometimes both) are not local, because it reduces the need for in-person physician or nurse practitioner visits.
PrescribeIT® helps provide safer and more efficient medication management by connecting community-based prescribers to community pharmacies, enabling the digital transmission of prescriptions. This virtually eliminates the risk of lost or damaged prescriptions and also reduces the risk of forgeries, a significant concern in the face of the national opioid epidemic.
With e-prescribing, the back and forth over fax and phone whenever questions arise is replaced by a secure clinical communications tool that sends the pharmacist’s question directly to the physician’s EMR system and vice versa.
This allows pharmacists and prescribers to quickly align on an appropriate course of action and provide the best medication for the patient. By improving communication and accuracy in the prescription process, e-prescribing also reduces the potential for medication misuse and improves medication adherence for better health outcomes.
As an Indigenous digital health service provider, our focus is on supporting resiliency by being part of a First Nation’s journey. There are no magic solutions to issues of health equity, but there is magic in what can be achieved when travelling together.
This blog post originally appeared as an article in Canadian Healthcare Technology.
Have a comment about this post? We’d love to hear from you.