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Better Health Together: A Citizen’s Perspective

Posted on July 24, 2017 by Kerri MacKay

Stories are rarely created alone — and neither is change. In March, Infoway brought together health care change makers from across Canada  to share our stories and experiences about digital health within our own health regions. Over two days, 34 patients, caregivers, technology developers, and more helped construct a vision for digital health in Canada for the next ten years, together.

I’d spent the week prior to the Better Health Together workshop on the road — but rather than being exhausted, I was energized following a tour of the Sibley Innovation Hub at Johns Hopkins and a blogging conference in Philadelphia. These experiences gave me the perfect perspective-shift for the workshop: what are people’s stories, and how might we innovate — together — to make things better? Through guided brainstorming with the Infoway team, the participants at the workshop shared our stories and experiences with digital health — be that online independently, through electronic health records (EHR) or portals and apps (to name a few).  We explored the successes and barriers to digital health in Canada.

We discovered the inequities that exist in digital health (e.g., EHRs) across Canada, and considered barriers that might affect others. For instance, as a resident of Manitoba, I cannot access my own EHR, while other Canadians can. Beyond myself, I considered that though some Canadians may have access to their EHR, they may be unable to access it. As I’d been made aware from doing research on asthma outcomes and primary care access with University of Alberta, many Canadians in rural or northern areas do not have internet access. As well, some Canadians may not have the health literacy skills required to understand their health records. Others, like my friends who are blind, may not have access if EHR websites/portals, or health apps, are not compatible with screen reader software. Barriers begin with not all Canadians having access to digital health information through their regional health system, however, they do not end there.

The aim of the workshop, however, was not to focus on these negatives. It was to consider how might we as citizens — those, willingly or unwillingly, invested in the healthcare system — choose to redefine these problems into solutions, and learn from one another. As with any innovation, we didn’t reach agreement on everything. We did, though, agree on a key point I’ve considered for years: that all Canadians should have access to the same level of digital health and health information systems. As a Manitoban, I was shocked to read a tweet from a patient in Toronto’s University Health Network that he was reading a radiology report while walking back to the clinic to see his doctor—meanwhile, I was online faxing my doctor’s office because I couldn’t leave a non-urgent phone message. There is no doubt that we can do better than that!

Together, we shared stories, thought bigger, explored better.

Together, we created a vision for the future of digital health in Canada that is more connected, more integrated, and more innovative.

I am thankful to have been a part of that together, this story, and hope that we are chasing the possibilities of “How might we do health better,” for a long time to come.

Disclosure: I was asked to write this post for Canada Health Infoway’s blog, Infoway Connects. Infoway provided guidelines but did not alter my content, and provided an opportunity for me to cross-post on my own blog. Infoway covered the cost of airfare, hotel, meals and ground transportation associated with the workshop.

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Bobby GheorghiuKerri MacKay

Kerri MacKay is a writer/blogger, coach, quantified self-er, and ePatient owning asthma and ADHD. A former gym class hater, she somehow now has a Bachelor of Physical & Health Education from the University of Winnipeg. Kerri loves airplanes, t-shirts, cupcakes, and coaching goalball. Connect with her on Twitter at @KerriYWG, or at KerriOnThePrairies.com.

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