Healthcare delivery in 2020.

The healthcare industry is undergoing a massive shift. As a wave of baby boomer physicians retire, millennials are beginning their careers and setting up their practices. Along with these generational changes, digital technology is transforming the healthcare landscape for patients and their care team.

Today, EMR penetration among Canadian primary care physicians has reached 85% and encouragingly, a survey among Canadian physicians showed that 31% are using 6 to 9 EMR functionalities to support patient care, but despite the progress only 36% of physicians and 34% of specialists are using 1 – 2 EMR functionalities. While digital health technology holds the promise to empower Canadians to be more engaged in their ongoing care and proactively manage their health, the same survey highlighted that while practices and clinics may be more accessible by way of digital technology, it is rare for primary care practices to offer e-services to either request an appointment (9%) or book a confirmed appointment (3%). And only 4% of primary care physicians and 9% of specialists enable patients to visit with them online via video (virtual visit).

Meanwhile, it’s become increasingly complex to provide optimal care. Today’s physicians are seeing more patients, ordering more tests, and performing more administrative tasks than ever before. Technology can support physicians to work more efficiently, elevate care delivery and improve patient outcomes.

Open the lines of communication.

New technologies turn patients from spectators into active participants in their own care, and turn the patient/physician relationship into a partnership.

Take the EMR for example. It isn’t only for storing patient records and data. As the main component of a clinic’s operation, the EMR can become a powerful hub through which communications flow to facilitate continuity of care. Tools such as outcomes dashboards are advancing the care of patients with chronic diseases and offering a lense into critical data by identifying high risk patients, providing workflow efficiencies and supporting the adoption of guideline-based care.

While making administrative tasks easier and more efficient for clinic staff, EMRs also enable patients to make and manage appointments online, complete digital patient forms, and check themselves in at a digital kiosk. Up-to-date patient information can be accessed by the physician during a patient encounter leading to focused, quality visits, more accurate diagnoses and greater patient participation in their own healthcare journey.

EMR-integrated services like TELUS’ EMR Mobile app, which is complimentary for TELUS Health EMR users, help physicians stay connected to the practice. The service enables them to access patient charts, their schedules and clinic information, view and process labs, read or send messages, and take pictures of symptoms and upload them directly to the patient chart in the EMR – without having to be in the office.

Improve patient access to care.

An important tool in removing barriers to care for Canadians is virtual care. Through virtual care, patients can call, text or video chat with healthcare practitioners using their computers or mobile devices, from anywhere, at any time.

Virtual care technology enables more effective communication with patients – especially those living in remote areas, those without a family physician, and patients with physical barriers or mobility issues.

Virtual patient/physician interactions help reduce the number of in-office encounters, decrease the length of visits, and allow for more patient-centric care.

Simplify physician-to-physician collaboration.

In a paper and faxed-based paradigm, continued reliance on outdated tools makes for unnecessary inefficiencies and stress for clinicians. Fortunately, healthtech innovations are changing the face of collaboration among physicians and improving the continuity of care.

One such innovation is TELUS Health’s MedDialog, a national clinical solution that allows doctors to communicate electronically with other healthcare professionals regarding the care of their patients directly from their EMR. It enables more efficient clinical practice and better patient care by eliminating the need for phone and fax communications and ensuring that all communication history, such as referrals, specialist consultations, laboratory testing results and other patient information, remains in the EMR. This saves time, reduces the need for manual transcribing and streamlines communication among members of the patient’s care team.

Using technology to shape healthcare delivery.

Physicians need — and want — to gain a deeper understanding of how technology can be embraced for more efficient practices.

Patients too are looking forward to more advanced, technology-based care. According to a CMA-commissioned survey that examined perceptions and acceptance of technology in healthcare, three out of four Canadians believe new technologies could solve existing issues in our healthcare system.

An exciting future lies ahead where digital healthcare can empower patients to take control of their own health, increase quality of life and limit chronic illness, while connecting physicians in the circle of care. How will you shape your practice in the next decade?

This article was initially published in the February 2020 digital edition of Canadian Healthcare Technology online, a special issue focused on Ontario Health Teams.

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