Canada Health Infoway investing in mobile accessibility for EHRs

Canadian healthcare may be ready to go mobile. Canada Health Infoway, the national government's electronic health record development organization, will invest $45 million to create "consumer health solutions" to allow patients to access their EHR records through mobile devices like smartphones.

The number of physicians who've adopted electronic records across the country is still in the minority, eBusiness Research Centre researcher Norm Archer told the Canadian Medical Association Journal last month. But Infoway is plowing ahead anyway, chief technology officer Dennis Giokas told the journal. He says the organization must "think beyond" EHRs and find ways to leverage the exploding mobile market to improve patient access to care, and communication options with clinicians.

Remote patient care isn't new to Infoway. The agency has nearly a half-dozen telehealth projects underway right now. What's new is the addition of mobile devices like smartphones and cellphones to the mix.

Interestingly, Giokas' comments to CMAJ indicate the agency isn't quite ready to dive into the mobile pool, but doesn't feel it has much choice. Mobile applications are a "game changer," he told CMAJ. For example, Canada Health itself already has approved at least one mobile app for physician use, the ResolutionMD imaging app for CT and MR imaging. And as more consumers purchase and use smartphones, provincial health systems will have to respond to the growing desire for mobile access.

One selling point for the project: The proliferation of new health-related apps is allowing patients to track their own health data. If Infoway can establish connectivity with mobile devices, patients will be able to also submit that data to clinicians, and participate more fully in their own care, Giokas tells CMAJ.

One interesting twist: No word yet on how the agency will integrate the mobile initiative into its existing $100 million "patient portal" project. The program was announced in its 2009 "vision statement," but is still as yet in the blueprint stage, according to CMAJ. 

To learn more:
- read this CMAJ piece
- here's an iMedicalApps post from last April on Health Canada's approval of an iPhone medical app for diagnostic imaging use
- check out these telehealth success stories from Canada Health Infoway