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Value of eHealth Evaluation Research in Supporting Healthcare Reform in Canada

Posted on May 5, 2014 by Dr. Francis Lau

In 2008 the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and Canada Health Infoway co-funded a five year Applied Chair award in eHealth. The CIHR Applied Chairs program is to support mid-career academics that conduct policy-relevant research, and are dedicated to the exchange of this research with decision makers and mentoring trainees in the area of applied health services and policy research.

I was one of the seven Canadian researchers who received the Applied Chair awards in different research areas that year. The mandate of my eHealth Chair was to examine the impact of health information systems (HIS) in Canada. This was done through the creation of an eHealth Observatory at the University of Victoria and a small team of health informatics researchers and trainees. Our objectives were to: (a) employ rigorous models, methods and metrics to evaluate HIS adoption and impact; (b) engage the eHealth community in knowledge translation to synthesize, share, and use the knowledge gained; and (c) build research capacity in HIS implementation and evaluation through graduate education/mentoring.

Over the past five years our eHealth Observatory team has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles and research reports, presented at over 30 eHealth related conferences and workshops, and supported over 40 research trainees. Some examples of our eHealth evaluation research publications are as follows:

In a nutshell, our eHealth evaluation research findings can be summed up below:

“There is evidence to suggest that, under the right conditions, the adoption of eHealth systems are correlated with clinical and health system benefits: an improvement in care process, health outcome and economic return. At present, this evidence is stronger in care process improvement than in health outcomes, and the positive economic return is based on a small set of published studies…. [In moving forward] the question is not whether eHealth can demonstrate benefits, but under what conditions can eHealth benefits be realized and efforts be applied … to maximize the benefits? ”1

1Lau F, Price M, Bassi J. Making Sense of eHealth Benefits and their Policy Implications in Canada – A Discussion Paper (in preparation).

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