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Physician IT

Infoway awaits $500 million in funding from Ottawa

SASKATOON – Dr. Anne Doig (pictured), the new president of the Canadian Medical Association, is urging that all doctors’ offices have electronic patient records by the end of 2011. And to help bring that about, Dr. Doig and her colleagues are asking Ottawa to release the $500 million in new funding that was promised to Canada Health Infoway in the February budget.

“Physicians know that electronic medical records are the essential building blocks to create an electronic health record capability across Canada,” said Dr. Doig. “EMRs are also a necessity for effective patient care within an individual physician’s office.”

CMA delegates voted in favour of several motions pledging to push for speedier, more effective use of electronic records. One of those motions was to ask the federal government to immediately transfer $500 million to Canada Health Infoway – an investment the government promised in February as part of its economic action plan.

Canada Health Infoway has, to date, been largely focused on spurring the use of electronic health records in hospitals across Canada. Now, however, it would like to enter new territory by speeding the uptake of electronic medical solutions in doctors’ offices and by consumers.

“We need a commitment from the government to release those funds now,” Dr. Doig said.

Dr. Alexandra Tcheremenska-Greenhill of B.C., said she worries the federal government is holding on to the money out of fear following trouble at eHealth Ontario. However, the nation can’t let one difficult experience hold them back from embracing the future, she said.

At a press conference, Dr. Doig said that to create tangible change in healthcare in Canada, doctors need to start by fixing what they can control, including finding ways to make their own practices more efficient.

Using technology is one thing they can do, she said. In her speech, Dr. Doig said some people are making a false assumption that improving Canadian patients’ access to healthcare means threatening medicare. “That is a scare tactic, and one to which I refuse to succumb,” she said. Doctors are often painted as “villains” in the debate over the best way to deliver healthcare, she said.

Doig said if advocating for her patients to get them the best care in a timely fashion makes her a villain, then she’s “ready to wear her black hat.”

The CMA president noted a series of “systemic failings” that she deemed unacceptable, including:

• Upward of five million Canadians do not have a family physician;

• Patients are “woefully under-covered” when it comes to prescription drugs;

• It is “normal procedure” for hospitals to allow patients to languish in hallways;

• Patients stay weeks and months in acute-care beds for lack of spaces in long-term-care facilities;

• Patients are discharged from hospital without a clear plan for their care in the community.

Posted Aug. 27/09.