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Electronic records

Infoway given ‘thumbs up’ at mid-term evaluation

MONTREAL – A mid-term assessment of Canada Health Infoway’s performance has given the agency a favourable review, concluding that the publicly funded organization has had a positive impact on the development of interoperable electronic health records in Canada.

The report, prepared by Ottawa-based BMB Consulting Services, states that progress has been made across Canada that “would not have been achieved without Infoway.”

Among the nine investment programs currently being addressed by Infoway, the only significant area of concern raised by BMB Consulting was in telehealth, where it was found that progress has been slow.

However, it was noted that telehealth presented challenges over and above those experienced in other areas, including regulations for the telehealth portfolio that have prevented the funding formula to be raised from 50/50 to 75/25, as it has in other programs.

Nevertheless, BMB Consulting acknowledged that Infoway has made recent improvements in telehealth –- for example, expert staff members have been hired, and 35 projects (in 11 of Canada’s 13 jurisdictions) had been given the go-ahead as of October, 2005.

BMB Consulting concluded that Infoway appears to be on track with its goal of an Electronic Health Record for 50 percent of the population by the end of 2009. As of November 2005, 4 percent of the Canadian population had access to an iEHR; projects affecting a further 13 percent were in expected to be completed by 2007-2008; and 13 percent more were in the planning stages, for a total of 30 percent.

The report’s purpose was to evaluate Infoway’s progress in line with its mission to accelerate the development of the electronic health record across Canada. Electronic health records, which help healthcare professionals make more informed decisions, are seen as a pillar of healthcare transformation.

“The report is independent confirmation that Infoway is making real progress in achieving its mandate and in providing value to Canadians,” said Arnold Steinberg, Infoway’s Board Chair.

The evaluation credits the organization with the following achievements:

• Demonstrating that there is a technical blueprint for pan-Canadian solutions and then focusing on the business and people aspects of technology through investments in change management and communications;

• Developing a portfolio management approach through investment strategies and programs, rather than focusing on individual projects;

• Building stronger relationships and collaboration with jurisdictions through mechanisms such as three-year jurisdictional plans and the CIO Forum (quarterly meetings with federal, provincial and territorial Chief Information Officers);

• Engaging other stakeholders such as vendors and healthcare professionals’ associations more directly and proactively;

• Placing priority on investment in benefits measurement and adoption of technology by healthcare professionals; and

• Streamlining business processes.

The report explains that although progress in the Telehealth area has been slower, most stakeholders feel that Infoway has now adopted appropriate Telehealth strategies and is gaining momentum in this area.

Infoway was required to have a performance evaluation carried out in 2006, after five years of operation, according to its Funding Agreement with the Government of Canada. One of the conclusions of the report was that “Infoway, through its corporate plans and then its delivery and reporting against those plans, has achieved progress for each of the Funding Agreement outcomes related to EHR.”

In preparation for the report, BMB, which was selected through a competitive bid process, gathered information from a number of existing internal and external planning and reporting documents and conducted 51 interviews in the following categories: Deputy Ministers of Health, Infoway’s Board of Directors, Chief Information Officers in jurisdictions, jurisdictional project leads, healthcare associations, industry associations and technology vendors and Infoway management.

“This positive momentum towards the development of a pan-Canadian electronic health record speaks to the remarkable efforts of our federal, provincial and territorial partners and the solid collaboration of healthcare professionals, technology vendors and other key supporters. Without them, none of this would have been possible,” said Richard Alvarez, Infoway’s President and CEO.

To view the full report, please visit Infoway’s website at

About Infoway
Infoway is an independent not-for-profit organization that invests with public sector partners across Canada to implement and reuse compatible health information systems which support a safer, more efficient healthcare system. These systems provide healthcare professionals with rapid access to complete and accurate patient information, enabling better decisions about treatment and diagnosis. The result is a sustainable, healthcare system offering improved quality, accessibility and productivity.