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Canada has Gained Many Benefits from its Investments in Digital Health

Posted on July 4, 2017 by Bobby Gheorghiu

In this week’s post, I would like to address two myths that have persisted over the years, partly due to lack of public awareness and/or the fact that many investments in digital health infrastructure may not result in visible progress to the general public. 

Myth: Canada has spent billions on digital health with nothing to show for it. Myth: There has been little to no progress in digital health in Canada

Like many of our peer countries, Canada has spent billions of dollars on digital health. Through Canada Health Infoway, Health Canada has invested $2.15B since 2001 on developing the interoperable health record, telehealth, community and ambulatory electronic medical records, and other foundational systems. Provinces and territories have all also made significant investments on their own. The benefits yielded by these investments are significant and well documented. Since 2007, Canadians and our health care system have realized an estimated $19 billion in benefits. In 2015 alone, benefits related to access, quality and productivity increases such as reductions in redundant tests, avoided use of hospital care, and efficiencies for clinicians amounted to over $2.5B across the Canadian health care system. The methodology supporting these figures can be found in the publication titled Cumulative Benefits of Digital Health Investments in Canada.

The chart below, based on surveys conducted by the Commonwealth Fund International Survey of Primary Care Physicians between 2006 and 2015, illustrates just how far Canada has come in the past ten years in terms of EMR use — especially considering just how far behind we were when comparing to leading countries. 

International comparison of primary care EMR use

A similar trend can be observed when looking at adoption of electronic health record systems by health system professionals in all provinces and territories. As documented in Measuring interoperable EHR adoption and maturity: a Canadian example, active use of these systems has increased exponentially over the past 10 years. These investments have created a solid foundation upon which new initiatives such as PrescribeITTM can be built.

Estimated monthly users of two or more clinical domains: 139,600

Visit our digital health myths page to get more facts about the benefits of digital health.

Have a comment about this post? We’d love to hear from you.

Bobby GheorghiuBobby Gheorghiu
Bobby works with stakeholders in academia, private and public sectors to develop and monitor performance targets for initiatives such as PrescribeIT®, Canada’s national e-prescribing service, to ensure widespread adoption of technology and to demonstrate tangible benefits of investments in digital health. He holds an MHSc in Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation from the University of Toronto.

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