Connecting Information for Better Healthcare

“How can we save the most lives?”

In his insightful keynote at the inaugural TELUS Health Talks event in November, Dr. Farzad Mostashari wondered why this shockingly simple question wouldn’t be asked every day by health organizations everywhere.

“We do a lot of things,” he said. “But which of these things should we focus on to save lives?”

Paperless practice

As President Obama’s former National Coordinator for Health IT, Dr. Mostashari has deep experience incenting healthcare organizations to improve health outcomes. A key first step to better outcomes, he feels, is a focus on electronic medical records (EMRs).

The numbers seem to agree. In a 2012 survey of primary care physicians, the Commonwealth Fund found that in the five highest performing healthcare systems, more than 90 percent of physicians use EMRs.

TELUS Health Blog Post Image

Canada has long incented doctors and hospitals to purchase EMRs. Numbers just released by the National Physician Survey show adoption at 75 per cent, triple the 2007 number. We’re not leading the world, but we’re certainly catching up and physicians are seeing a difference. Sixty-five per cent reported seeing better or much better quality of care since the implementation of electronic records, a rise of nine percentage points from last year.

Connectivity is king

Dr. Mostashari likens a grant to purchase an EMR to buying a piano: “Just having the instrument does not mean you will hear music.” Truly, better health hinges on more than just putting an EMR in every practice.

As a standalone, an EMR is a handy storage and retrieval filing system. Improvements in efficiency and quality are marginal at best. Only when a system is operating in concert with other players in the network – through connections to other clinics, hospitals, labs, pharmacies and the patient’s home – can it reach its full potential.

Track data, save lives

Ultimately, EMRs enable tracking of a wide variety of performance indicators. With the right incentive programs, data from these systems can be used to facilitate better health outcomes at a population level.

Remember those high performing countries? Many years ago their governments handed healthcare governance bodies specific mandates to measure key performance indicators and reach new, ambitious standards of care.

To comply, practitioners used their EMRs to track and, more importantly, improve performance in important categories like chronic disease management, wait times, screening and patient engagement.

With a bit of encouragement, these professionals sat down at the piano and learned to play beautiful music. What followed was, not surprisingly, better population health.

We have the technology today to provide better, safer and more seamless care to Canadians. Take a look at how this Family Nurse Practitioner describes the impact that connectivity and access to data is having for her practice and patients in the communities she serves. Imagine how results like this can be amplified when all parties in the healthcare continuum can securely connect and collaborate.