Mark Goldberg


Adopting technology to manage your health

While 89% of Canadians believe digital health technology will lead to better care, at least 85% report missing out on technology that would help them take more control of their personal health. That is one of the findings of the TELUS Health Digital Life survey, released yesterday.

Canadians ranked personal banking (75 per cent), social media (51 per cent) and shopping (50 per cent) among the most important things they do online, while fewer than half of Canadians (48 per cent) ranked access to personal medical records as one of their top online activities.

Only 15 per cent of Canadians reported conducting any kind of health-related activity online. At least half are unaware of electronic services that are available to them through medical offices, health clinics, labs or pharmacies in some parts of the country. Just 14 per cent of Canadians surveyed have viewed lab results online and 61 per cent reported that they didn’t even know that it was possible to do so.

It has been a number of years since I wrote about eHealth initiatives, somewhat surprising since so many members of my family are involved in all segments of the health care sector.

How can we increase adoption of digital technologies among health care providers and users?

Hélène Chartier, Vice-President, Go-to-Market, Strategy & Enablement at TELUS Health says:

We see three main contributing forces that need to work in tandem to accelerate the adoption of Health IT tools: First, the public sector will require strong political will and openness, not only to redefine success but also to collaborate with the private sector. Second, the industry needs to be agile and open to adopting third party innovations quickly and effectively, redefining traditional partnership models and giving way to more “coopetition.” Third, for individuals, patients and consumers, a mix of awareness, education and self-empowerment is required to shift people’s behaviors to focus on proactive healthcare and how they hold our healthcare system and themselves accountable for better outcomes.

The Digital Life survey found 80% of Canadians agree that electronic medical records (EMRs) provide accurate information to doctors about their patients, and 75% believe EMRs help doctors diagnose patients more effectively and more efficiently. Seventy-one percent feel that EMRs allow for safe and secure sharing of medical information between patients, pharmacists, other doctors and specialists. More than 4 out of 5 respondents agreed health information should be shared digitally between doctors and pharmacists, and three quarters agree that electronic prescriptions would help reduce medical errors.

Regional results are available for Western Canada and Quebec. According to the CRTC’s 2015 Communications Monitoring Report, Quebec has lower than average adoption of internet, yet the Digital Life study shows Quebec has Canada’s most active users of digital health technology.

At 90%, Canadians in Western Canada are just behind Ontario (92%), in believing digital health technology will lead to better care, while in Quebec, 85% share that optimism. Still 21% of Quebecers reported some kind of online health-related activity, 50% better than the national average of just 15%. Nearly four times as many Canadians believe in the value of digital health technology as the number that actually make use of them.

When we look at increasing Canadians’ adoption of digital health technologies, it may be worth exploring what factors are driving higher rates of their use in Quebec. There is a certain “je ne sais quoi” that needs to be understood.

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