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Government & policy

Ontario readies its provincial eHealth strategy

TORONTO – Sarah Kramer (pictured), the  President and CEO of eHealth Ontario, announced that the organization has produced a preliminary eHealth strategy. The strategy is currently being circulated for comment and recommendations; it will then be refined and brought to the eHealth board of directors for approval in March. Once the strategic plan receives the go-ahead from the board of directors, it will be made public.

The draft document notes that Ontario's proposed eHealth Strategy will cost $2.133 billion to implement over the three-year period from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2012.

“I am delighted to report that on January 29, 2009, our Board of Directors approved in principle, Ontario’s eHealth Strategy,” said Kramer. This plan incorporates much of the thinking and input we have received from many of you over the years about the direction of eHealth in Ontario.”

The Strategy covers the next three years – 2009 to 2012 – and outlines eHealth Ontario mandate, priorities, direction, risks and roadmap. Driven by and supported by the priorities of Government, the Strategy is focused on results for three clinical priorities:

• Tools to control and manage diabetes more effectively in order to reduce associated complications and costs;

• On-line management of prescription medications in order to minimize preventable adverse drug events; and

• Reduced waits in Ontario emergency departments and the incidence of inpatients in acute care settings waiting for alternative levels of care.

Kramer said that, “Each of the strategic directions will improve the quality of care received by Ontarians. The clinical benefits achieved through implementation will start to accrue to patients in Ontario during the first year of the strategy.”

The strategy document realistically notes the challenges that must be dealt with in seeking to transform the way healthcare is delivered in the province.

“This Strategy is a large and complex undertaking, with associated interdependencies and risks. Among the major risks are that insufficient human resources will be available to execute it; that physician adoption of electronic medical record (EMR) solutions will be slower than expected; and that privacy concerns will constrain the pace at which eHealth solutions can be implemented. These and other risks are explicitly identified in the Strategy, and will be monitored through its execution. Mitigation tactics to address them are also incorporated.”

The strategy also points out that transparency and accountability will be paramount in building an integrated, eHealth system across the province. In particular, there must be open results reporting for the various projects.

“Stakeholders must feel a sense of ownership of the eHealth agenda as they must contribute to integrating provincial initiatives into their local systems environments. To achieve this, they must have access to data about eHealth Ontario performance.

“The reverse is true as well; tracking progress and performance of delivery partners will be a requirement to ensuring successful achievement of eHealth Strategy results.”

Members of the Ontario healthcare community have been asked for their input on the strategy, and to respond to five feedback questions by February 19, 2009. The document can be viewed at: