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Review of Ontario’s digital health strategy. Highlights of AFHTO’s contribution

Minister Eric Hoskins and eHealth Ontario have now received Ed Clark’s review of Ontario’s Digital Health Assets, which confirms the significant and ongoing value of digital health infrastructure, and have accepted all of his recommendations in principle.

In October the provincial government requested the Premier’s Business Advisor, Mr. Ed Clark, assess the value of ehealth in Ontario, specifically “provide the government with a value assessment of Ontario’s digital health assets and all related intellectual property and infrastructure” and “provide us with recommendations related to how to maximize the value of these assets for Ontarians”.

AFHTO was one of 30 organizations who sent their own submissions to Mr. Clark, aligned with the collective goal as stated in the Patients First Action Plan, “to make Ontario the healthiest place to grow up and grow old.”

Highlights from the AFHTO submission include:

Current demonstrated value:

  • Primary care – the “home” and the coordinator for health care over each person’s lifetime – and the primary care EMR are the basic building blocks for the health system and for EHRs.
  • Primary care providers in Ontario’s interprofessional teams (including one-quarter of all family physicians) use EMRs and continue to move to higher levels of EMR maturity.
  • EMRs are essential to meaningful measurement and improvement, and higher primary care quality is associated with decreasing total cost of care for patients.
  • Connectivity among providers is critical to primary care coordination.

To get much more value from EMRs and connectivity:

  • Stable funding is needed to enable all primary care teams and family physicians to license and maintain their EMRs and upgrade as needed to optimize their role in achieving the objectives to “access, connect, inform and protect”.
  • People and processes are essential to reaping the value of EMRs for better care. The Quality Improvement Decision Support (QIDS) Partnerships are a proven model for advancing use of EMRs and data; this model is highly amenable to spread.
  • Build a vision and strategy for patient ehealth to move beyond “pockets” of innovation.

With these in mind, Ontario can refine its digital health strategy to help “improve access to care, connect services, inform people to make the right decisions about their care, and protect our universal public health care system by making decisions based on value and quality.”

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