Report: Canada's health IT 'lags on many fronts'

Canada has many of the same problems with electronic health record adoption and data sharing as the United States, according to a Canadian report published this month of the Advisory Panel in Healthcare Innovation.

The report, commissioned by the Canadian government, found that the country was being held back by incomplete interoperability, as well as gaps in uptake of EHRs in primary and ambulatory care settings. It lauds the U.S. Meaningful Use program as a good example of incentivizing EHR implementation, noting that there is no similar pan-Canadian incentive/disincentive structure to spur adoption and data sharing. Moreover, progress in rolling out consumer health technologies to patients has been "slow"; only 4 percent of individuals have access to their health information online.

"Development of info-structure has accelerated in Canada, with wider uptake of electronic health records," the report states. "However, Canada lags on many fronts, including meaningful use of those digital resources, secure access to patient records by authorized users to enable safe and seamless care, assurance of digital access to their own records for patients, development of virtual care applications and achievement of sufficient interoperability and standardization of data to permit more effective use of all these data for performance measurement and advanced analytics."

Critical areas identified in the report for healthcare innovation include technological transformation via digital health, patient engagement and empowerment, and the use of industry as an economic driver and innovation catalyst.

The report recommends, among other things, to accelerate the deployment of interoperable EHRs across the point of care, assist providers and payers in meeting meaningful use of health IT, lead "open data" efforts, prioritize the creation of online portals and ensure that future investments in health IT are standardized, interoperable, linked across multiple sites and accessible to third parties for assessment of performance.

Canada has had problems with interoperability, in part due to the variation of Provincial requirements. The United States has also been increasingly focused on the need for data sharing to improve patient care.

To learn more:
- read the report