Report: 73 percent of Canadian PCPs using EHRs

Canada's experience with electronic medical records continues to mirror that of the United States, with increased adoption of the systems by primary care physicians (PCPs) but less data sharing, according to the Commonwealth Fund's 2015 International Health Policy Survey of Primary Care Physicians.

The survey, which looked at 11,000 PCPs in 10 countries, found that EMR use by PCPs in Canada tripled from 23 percent to 73 percent in the last nine years. This is slightly less than PCP adoption of certified EHRs in the U.S., which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month reported was 78.6 percent in 2014.

Also, like the U.S., in Canada adoption rates varied geographically; the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario had the highest adoption rates, with Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan seeing the greatest increases since 2012.

About four-fifths (79 percent) of the Canadian PCPs with EHRs can generate computerized lists of patients by diagnosis, compared to only 20 percent of PCPs without an EHR. Seventy percent of those with EHRs can generate a list of patient's medications, compared to 17 percent of those without an EHR; and 62 percent of the EHR users could provide a list of patients overdue for tests or preventative care compared to 11 percent of those who didn't have one.

However, Canadian physicians continue to struggle with data sharing. Only 19 percent of the PCPs can electronically exchange patient clinical summaries with doctors outside of their own practices, 15 percent could offer patients the option of emailing them about medical questions and just 11 percent offered patients a way to request an appointment or referral online.

Canada has invested in EHR adoption but did not enact a Meaningful Use incentive program like one in the U.S. It also has increased burdens with interoperability, in part because of the variation of Provincial requirements.

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