Investing in our Future: The Government of Ontairo E-Health Initiative

An electronic database comprising health education material, patient’s medical records and breaking public health information may sound like something from the distant future. But it could become a distinct reality by 2015, when the pieces of Ontario’s new ehealth strategy fall into place.

The ehealth initiative is at the forefront of a new era in Canadian health care, with the Ontario government’s $2.133 billion dollar strategic investment aimed at redefining how Ontarians access healthcare.

The eHealth vision is to harness information technology and innovation that will improve patient care, safety, and access to crucial health information in support of the governments health strategy.

The result will be an electronic portal that serves a variety of purposes, from purely administrative to speeding up health care delivery. CARP supports the comprehensive eHealth infrastructure, hoping that it will facilitate better communication among health care providers and policymakers, aiding them in making more informed decisions about patient health. The speed and access to information and the coherence of easily accessible medical patient records will promote better healthcare decision making.

CARP attended a demonstration of the what the portal will be able to do for patients and doctors once it is up and running. The central and most interesting feature of the e-health initiative is the central portal accessible by patients as well as doctors of the e-health community. It is user-friendly while allowing for a number of complex actions. Taking a diabetes patient as an example, the portal would allow them to participate in their own care by tracking and entering their blood glucose levels. This would allow their doctor to remotely monitor any medications they might be taking and their relative success in treating the patient’s condition. It would also allow the doctor to have a more comprehensive view of the patient records and determine which mediations might be best/unsuitable for a particular patient. The system would also allow patients to invite informal caregivers to have access to these electronic health files or part of them as part of their care team.

Serving both patient and healthcare providers, eHealth is intended to offer better continuity of care through streamlining the prescription process. It will enable prescriptions to be transmitted electronically and offer information on specific conditions and diseases to foster patient awareness. Other services include client and provider registries that provide information on authorized health care providers; also enabling health care providers to access, manage, and share relevant information on patients and their medical history.

The short-term focus of Ontario’s eHealth strategy is on three clinical priorities: to control and manage diabetes more effectively, to implement on-line management of prescription medications, and to reduce waits in Ontario emergency departments. The key to eHealths success lies in continued involvement and approval from health care stakeholders, including engaging physicians in the system, and relying on them to provide medical records. Ontarians expect the privacy of their personal health information to be protected and guaranteed, ensuring that personal medical information will not be used by employers and insurers attempting to the information as a basis for discrimination.