Electronic Medical Records Deliver Efficiencies, Patient Safety, Improved Communication

More than $1.3 billion in benefits since 2006: New study

(Toronto, ON) – With a two-fold increase in adoption since 2006, use of electronic medical records (EMR) in community-based practices in Canada has yielded efficiency and patient care benefits valued at $1.3 billion, a new independent study reveals.

The PwC study drew on more than 250 research publications from around the world and includes up-to-date Canadian results from recent studies and surveys.  It was commissioned by Canada Health Infoway (Infoway), and uncovers the benefits achieved over a six year period (2006-2012):

  • $800 million in administrative efficiencies as staff time is redeployed in community-based practices;
  • $584 million in health system level benefits, such as reduced duplicate tests and adverse drug events;
  • Improved interactions and communications among care team members and between providers and patients; and
  • Better quality of care and health outcomes through preventative care and chronic disease management with advanced EMR use. 

These results are tied to national progress in EMR adoption over the same period, which saw EMR adoption by primary care physicians more than double in Canada from 23 per cent in 2006 to 56 per cent in 2012.  Use of EMRs by community-based specialists has also increased. 

“Promoting and supporting health system innovation is essential in order to improve patient care and the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system," said the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health. "We encourage Canada Health Infoway to continue working with provinces, territories and other stakeholders to increase the adoption of electronic medical records and other e-health technologies so that Canadians can benefit from a better integrated health care delivery system,” added Minister Aglukkaq.

“Users of electronic medical records, their patients and the health system are already seeing efficiency, safety and teamwork benefits thanks to investments by governments and health care providers that have increased the number of clinicians using these tools,” said Richard Alvarez, President and CEO, Canada Health Infoway. “We expect significant additional gains as adoption grows, use matures, and connections to other care settings expand.”  

The study also demonstrates the potential of EMRs to improve communication among members of the care team, as well as communication between providers and their patients.  For example, 93 per cent of physicians in Alberta’s EMR program report access to a summarized patient history means that patients spend less time repeating the same information to care providers. 

“EMRs are more than a tool that converts paper patient records to electronic files,” said Claudia Steffler, a nurse practitioner/Unit Director at the McMaster Department of Family Medicine - Maternity Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, whose practice transitioned from paper to an EMR-enabled environment 12 years ago. “They fundamentally redefine care by offering a flexible, user driven process that supports workflow, communication and collaboration between health disciplines which leads to improved patient care. This would simply not be possible in the old paper-world.”

While the study illustrates how the benefits of EMR use are accruing today, it also shows the even greater potential that lies in the use of advanced features such as tools and alerts prompting follow-up that will help clinicians with illness prevention and chronic disease management. For instance, a recent study found that primary care practices with EMRs conducted reviews of patient records (e.g. for medication recalls) approximately 30 times more quickly than paper-based clinics. 

“Our vision of a patient’s medical home includes effective use of electronic medical records for all patients,” says Dr. Jim Thorsteinson, Executive Director of the British Columbia College of Family Physicians. “They can help with key roles such as the management and coordination of care for patients with chronic diseases and ensuring continuity of care throughout the health system.”  

Read the backgrounder.

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© 2013 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership. All rights reserved.

PwC refers to the Canadian member firm, and may sometimes refer to the PwC network. Each member firm is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.  

About Canada Health Infoway
Canada Health Infoway is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government. Infoway jointly invests with every province and territory to accelerate the development and adoption of information and communications technology projects in Canada. Fully respecting patient confidentiality, these secure systems will provide clinicians and patients with the information they need to better support safe care decisions and manage their own health. Accessing this vital information quickly will help foster a more modern and sustainable health care system for all Canadians.

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For more information:

Karen Schmidt
Director, Corporate/Internal Communications
Canada Health Infoway
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