Patient Access to their Health Information is Growing — but there is Still Work to be Done

By Simon Hagens

In 2014 Infoway published “Understanding the Gap Between Desire for and Use of Consumer Health Solutions.” This analysis revealed that while eight in 10 Canadians wanted access to their personal health information, only four per cent had accessed it electronically.[1]

Patient Access to their Health Information is Growing — but there is Still Work to be Done

At the time, availability was limited, with a few pilot projects, leading institutions and progressive primary care providers forging the way. However, there has been rapid change in Canada in recent years, and in 2020 the landscape is very different. Eight in 10 still want access, and now most Canadians can access at least some of their health information online.

So, where can Canadians access their information today? Provincial and regional portals are now available for all citizens in Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan as well as many in British Columbia and Ontario. Many Canadians in British Columbia and Ontario have also been accessing their lab results through lab service providers. At the more local level, a growing number of hospitals and primary care practices also offer patient access to personal health information through tethered portals. Finally, provincial immunization records are available to citizens in Ontario.

While it’s exciting to see this growth in availability, it is also important to consider how many Canadians have actually accessed their available information. In Infoway’s 2019 survey of Canadians, 20 per cent reported that they had done so[2]. While this may be a small proportion, it is up from 17 per cent the year earlier, and has steadily increased from the four per cent reported in 2014. Roughly half of those who have accessed their information did so through a lab service provider, one in four did so through a health delivery organization and another quarter did so through a provincial or regional portal.

What does all this mean in terms of total numbers of Canadians who have accessed their health information? With approximately 30 million adults in Canada today, that means an estimated six million have actually done so. That’s great progress over the past five years, but we know there are many more who could take advantage of these services.

There is work to be done to increase adoption, such as increasing public awareness of available consumer digital health tools. Through Infoway’s ACCESS Health program and the ACCESS 2022 movement, we are working to close some of these gaps. Want to learn more? Join the movement and learn more about ACCESS Health.

[1] Zelmer, Jennifer, and Simon Hagens. "Understanding the gap between desire for and use of consumer health solutions." HealthcarePapers 13.4 (2014): 8-21. [2] Access to Digital Health Services: 2019 Survey of Canadians Summary Report, Canada Health Infoway.

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About the author
Simon Hagens

Simon Hagens

Simon Hagens leads performance analytics at Canada Health Infoway, informing Infoway and our partners with the evidence to deliver and optimize digital health for the benefit of Canadians and our health system.