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Government & policy

Federal government to release $500 million to Infoway

OTTAWA – The government of Canada announced in the March 4 budget that it will proceed with the transfer of $500 million to Canada Health Infoway that was promised to the agency in the 2009 budget.

According to plans previously announced by Infoway, the funds will be used to promote the adoption of electronic medical records by physicians, as well as to foster greater interoperability among electronic solutions. The agency also aims to establish itself as a certification authority for new systems, and to help build consumer-oriented solutions such as portals.

According to the government, “This $500-million investment will both enhance the safety, quality and efficiency of the health care system, and create thousands of sustainable, knowledge-based jobs throughout Canada.”

The funding had been delayed in the wake of eHealth scandals last year, as the government carried out a review of Infoway’s activities. For its part, Canada Health Infoway has developed an action plan to strengthen accountability in response to the Auditor General of Canada’s Report of November 3, 2009.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomed the announcement that the federal government will release the $500 million promised for electronic medical records. It is also relieved that transfers to the provinces remain untouched.

“Canada’s doctors are pleased to see that the federal government isn’t planning to balance the budget on the backs of Canadian patients,” said CMA President Dr. Anne Doig. “As we saw with the cuts to healthcare in the 1990s, the supposed cure ended up being much worse than the disease.”

After months of delay, the federal budget signaled that the funds promised to Canada Health Infoway in 2009 would finally flow. This move will speed up the introduction of electronic medical record systems in doctors’ offices and ultimately improve patient care.

“We applaud the government for releasing the $500 million earmarked in the last budget for electronic medical records,” added Dr. Doig. “The doctors of Canada have been pushing for this since last summer and we’re glad that our efforts paid off. The real winners, of course, will be our patients who will benefit from more efficient and integrated care.”

The CMA was also glad that the federal government recognized the importance of health promotion and disease prevention. The $6 million for ParticipACTION, the $45 million for the Northern Food Mail program, the $285 million for Aboriginal Health initiatives and the extension of the First Nations Water and Wastewater Program are all wise investments.

“The easiest way to save money in our health care system is to try to keep people from having to access it in the first place,” concluded Dr. Doig. “Money spent now on health promotion and disease prevention will pay huge dividends in the future.”

Posted March 11, 2010