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Understanding EHRs, EMRs and PHRs

Electronic health records (EHRs), electronic medical records (EMRs) and personal health records (PHRs) are similar terms but have different definitions and distinct purposes. At Canada Health Infoway, the terms are defined as follows:

  • Electronic Health Record: An electronic health record (EHR) refers to the systems that make up the secure and private lifetime record of a person's health and health care history. These systems store and share such information as lab results, medication profiles, key clinical reports (e.g., hospital discharge summaries), diagnostic images (e.g., X-rays), and immunization history. The information is available electronically to authorized health care providers.
  • Electronic Medical Record: An electronic medical record (EMR) is an office-based system that enables a health care professional, such as a family doctor, to record the information gathered during a patient's visit. This information might include a person's weight, blood pressure and clinical information, and would previously have been hand-written and stored in a file folder in a doctor's office. Eventually the EMR will also allow the doctor to access information about a patient's complete health record, including information from other health care providers that is stored in the EHR.
  • Personal Health Record: A complete or partial health record under the custodianship of a person(s) (e.g. a patient or family member) that holds all or a portion of the relevant health information about that person over their lifetime. This is also a person-centric health record, but unlike the EHR, the patient has control or “custodianship” over the record, rather than the health care provider.


Canadian Stories

Technology is helping to transform health care across the country, and that means people have more tools available to them in managing their own health and communicating with health care providers. To help highlight the progress Canada has already made, we are sharing real stories from Canadians who have firsthand experience with digital health solutions such as e-mental health, remote patient monitoring, patient portals and more.

To view all of the Canadian Stories, please click here. 

Featured Story


Managing Gestational Diabetes Remotely

Meet Heather from Montreal, Quebec, who was part of an Infoway-funded telehomecare project that not only enabled her to take on a more active role in the management of her gestational diabetes, it allowed her to do so remotely, which meant fewer medical appointments.

More Canadian Stories

Remote Patient Monitoring: Keeping Patients at Home

Nancy is enrolled in a Community Paramedicine Program that provides digital health tools in the homes of patients so they can measure their vitals such as blood pressure, weight and oxygen levels. The information is sent to Emergency Medical Services in Middlesex-London, Ontario so paramedics can intervene before minor issues become more problematic.

Digital Access to Health Information Saves Time

Meet Toni, a busy mom from Duncan, British Columbia, who accesses her family’s medical information securely online through the Closing the Circle of Care project, which provides patients with digital access to their health information, while honouring the Cowichan Tribes’ Indigenous teachings and approach to care.

e-Mental Health Solution Supports Patients

Meet Ontario patients John and Jane who share their experience using an e-mental health solution called Big White Wall. The solution provides online support and resources that patients can use 24/7. Big White Wall is an Infoway-sponsored project conducted by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN).

Donna Goodridge’s Story: Better Care for Patients with Chronic Diseases

Donna Goodridge managed a remote patient monitoring program for the Saskatoon Health Region’s LiveWell Chronic Disease Management COPD Program. She says this telehomecare initiative offers tremendous benefits to patients who have chronic diseases.

Citizens’ Perspectives

Connecting Patients for Better Health

Infoway regularly conducts public opinion surveys with Canadians as part of its commitment to listen to their perspectives and understand their needs. The 2018 Connecting Patients for Better Health report provides the latest availability, use and citizen interest in accessing their health information online as well as digitally enabled health services (e-services).

The results are from four public opinion surveys administered between February and March 2014 – 2018, and are nationally representative of Canadians by age, province/territory and gender.

Connecting Patients for Better Health

Citizens' Vision for Better Health through Digital Solutions

To further understand what Canadians want, Infoway held the Better Health Together Workshop in March 2017. Thirty-four citizen participants from across Canada came together to learn and share about digital health. Together, they created the Citizens' Vision for Better Health through Digital Solutions.

The vision realized through this Workshop was to improve the health of Canadians and to promote true and meaningful collaboration between patients, families, and their health care providers through universally-accessible, integrated digital technologies.

Citizen Engagement Key to Achieving CHIP Citizen Portal Pilot Success

Posted on June 27 by Lillian Ly

In early 2016, eHealth Saskatchewan (eHealth) launched the Citizen Health Information Portal (CHIP) pilot that ran from January through to August. CHIP is a secure, online web service that provides users with quick and easy access to their personal health information. We were able to leverage the data within our provincial electronic health record (eHR) to provide pilot participants with provincial health data such as lab results, immunization records, prescription history, and hospital visit history.

ACCESS 2022 Alliance

Infoway’s ACCESS Health program is uniting industry, health care providers, provinces, territories and Canadians to innovate where and how Canadians access care.

We believe our health care system should be connected — enabling both citizens and their providers to connect to the information and digital tools they need to optimize their health and wellbeing and modernize the ways in which care can be accessed. Fortunately, we know many organizations, providers, innovators and citizens share our vision.

The good news is that innovators are creating solutions to enable Canadians to connect to their data and actively manage their health. However, these innovators also face barriers when it comes to scaling their solutions.

They face barriers in integrating with other digital health solutions and connecting to personal health data sources. They face barriers in accessing trusted citizen identity proofing and consent management needed to enable the provision of secure, private and trusted digital health solutions.

Breaking Down Barriers to Scaling Innovation

We think these barriers can be overcome, which is why we’ve launched the ACCESS 2022 movement.

The ACCESS 2022 Alliance (the Alliance) is a community of stakeholders committed to the vision of ACCESS 2022 of improving Canadians’ access to their personal health information and to digitally delivered health services.

ACCESS 2022 Alliance Founding Sponsor Program

Announced at the 2018 Infoway Partnership Conference, the ACCESS 2022 Alliance is calling on organizations to commit to this shared vision. The immediate opportunity is for a limited number of private sector organizations, from representation across the industry, to join the Founding Sponsor Program. The Founding Sponsor program will only accept members this year, and spaces are limited.

To apply for this sponsorship program, contact us.

Moving forward the ACCESS 2022 Alliance will expand its activities and engagement opportunities. In the meantime, to stay connected, join the ACCESS 2022 movement.

Join the ACCESS 2022 Movement  

Governments and Jurisdictions

Improving Access to Care

Infoway’s ACCESS Health program is uniting industry, health care providers, provinces, territories and Canadians to redefine where and how Canadians access care.

Digital health can empower health care providers with the ability to access the information they need to make informed decisions about their patients while also enabling citizens to better manage their own care. The result? An accessible, more efficient health care system that will:

Digital health can provide citizens with greater and secure access to their personal health information and improve access to care, while helping to reduce costs.

  • Provide citizens with safe and secure access to their personal health information and to digitally enabled solutions
  • Provide citizens more convenient options and timely access to care using digital tools
  • Avoid costs through:
    • Better health outcomes
    • Efficient access to information
    • Fewer trips to the emergency department and fewer hospital stays
  • Leverage the ACCESS Gateway, which is supported by a national trust framework to enable innovation in the health system
  • Create opportunities for economic development by fostering and scaling innovation

ACCESS Health Projects

Infoway is working to scale digital health solutions to help improve access to care. Examples include:


PrescribeIT®, Canada’s only national, not-for-profit e-prescribing service enhances medication safety by enabling prescribers to electronically transmit prescriptions directly from their electronic medical records to a pharmacy management system, reducing the need for transcribing prescriptions.

Mustimuhw Citizen Health Portal

The Mustimuhw Citizen Health Portal is aimed at closing the circle of care by providing patients with a personal health record (PHR) connected to a community electronic medical record (cEMR). Built for First Nations Peoples by First Nations Peoples, the Mustimuhw cEMR, along with the citizen portal, enables more efficient communication and coordination of care.

Kids Help Phone

Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone provides bilingual crisis support to Canadian youth through their preferred method of communication — texting. Young Canadians can text 686868 to connect with a trained crisis responder.

ACCESS Atlantic

ACCESS Atlantic is a collaboration between New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Infoway to increase citizen access to their health information and digitally-enabled health services. The initiative will launch an initial set of Gateway services as a test-bed for Canada transforming the way health care is delivered, while also driving economic development.

Join the ACCESS 2022 Movement  

Implementation Support

There are numerous valuable resources available to support clinicians and administrators in implementing and advancing the effective use of digital health.

Clinician Peer Networks provide clinicians implementing digital health solutions with insights and best practice guidelines from their peers who have already gone through the experience.

Infoway works with the vendor community to certify digital health solutions, encourage the use of standards and promote the development of interoperable solutions. This can make choosing a solution easier.

To help organizations and individuals manage changes to their workflow, the Change Management toolkit includes information about a wide range of topics such as methodologies, approaches, best practices and case studies to ease the transition to a new way of doing work.

In addition, Infoway has partnered with experts to share tools that are specific to particular types of digital health, such as e-booking and e-medication reconciliation (eMedRec):

Patient Access

Today, 80 per cent of Canadians want access to their health records and other digital health solutions. Infoway regularly commissions research, surveys and focus groups to better understand the areas of patient access that need attention. This research highlights important issues for policy and decision-makers to consider as jurisdictions move forward with their consumer health strategies.

Areas of Research

Access for Adolescents

As the use of digital health technologies grows across Canada and consumer access to personal health information is facilitated, the issue of who should have access to adolescents’ (also known as mature minors) electronic personal health information has become increasingly apparent.

To better understand this topic, Infoway conducted research between December 2015 and March 2016 that included an environmental scan and literature review, a Pan-Canadian survey and focus groups, and a privacy legal framework review.

Engaging Canadians

To further understand what Canadians want, Infoway held the Better Health Together Workshop in March 2017. Thirty-four citizen participants from across Canada came together to learn and share about digital health. Together, they created the Citizens’ Vision for Better Health through Digital Solutions.

The vision realized through this Workshop was to improve the health of Canadians and to promote true and meaningful collaboration between patients, families, and their health care providers through universally-accessible, integrated digital technologies.


To gain a better understanding of the current nature of immunization record keeping practices in Canada, Infoway commissioned a research firm to conduct a survey and focus groups that explored parents’ experiences with managing their children’s immunization records and their attitudes towards accessible electronic immunization records (EIR).


Please visit the Consumer Health e-Services page for more information about Infoway’s Consumer Health Solutions investment program.

Physicians, Nurses, Pharmacists and Other Clinicians

Providing More Efficient Care

Infoway’s ACCESS Health program is uniting industry, health care providers, provinces, territories and Canadians to redefine where and how Canadians access care.

ACCESS Health will facilitate the national scalability of standardized tools that allow clinicians to share information and communicate with each other and their patients in a modern, efficient manner.

These tools and services will include:

  • Virtual care services. Improve access to care, and the efficiency of your practice with such solutions as secure messaging and e-visits.
Timely access to information enables more informed decision making.

Timely access to information enables more informed decision making.

  • Directory services. Directory services enable you and your patients to better navigate health care resources available in the community (e.g. mental health services).
  • e-Prescribing with PrescribeIT®. Enhance medication safety through Canada’s only national, not-for-profit e-prescribing service.
  • Patient access. Your patients will be able to better manage their care through access to digital services and their personal health information, such as medication lists, and lab and immunization information.
  • An app library. A list of curated apps that you can suggest to your patients to enhance their wellbeing and recovery.

These types of tools and services can enhance the efficiency of your clinic and allow you to focus more time on patient care. They will conform to the standards and a secure trust framework established for the ACCESS Gateway enabling a smoother flow of the critical health information that you need to provide care.

Join the ACCESS 2022 Movement  

Related Resources

National Change Management Framework

The Change Management Network, established and supported by Infoway, has developed an integrated framework for describing change management activities within the context of health technology projects. The framework consists of six core change management elements:

Governance & Leadership: The mechanisms used to guide, steer or regulate the course of a project, including how stakeholders can affect the priorities and progress of a project as well as the CM activities occurring within a project.

Stakeholder Engagement: The process by which the perceptions, issues and expectations of stakeholders are learned and managed. Stakeholder engagement includes focused attention on the individuals who are expected to change. Their behaviours and needs must be defined, understood and considered when implementing projects.

national change mgmt frameworkCommunications: The process of providing stakeholders with what they need to know, in order to prompt appropriate responses and/or actions.

Workflow Analysis & Integration: The process of understanding current work processes and opportunities for improvement, so that new processes using digital health solutions can be sustainably embedded into the culture, as evidenced through their presence within steady-state operations.

Training & Education: The act of imparting both knowledge and specific skills among key stakeholders to promote adoption.

Monitoring & Evaluation: The process of reviewing whether CM activities took place as planned; and the extent to which they were effective. As proposed in this framework, monitoring and evaluation take place throughout the lifecycle of the project.

Framework and Toolkit for Managing eHealth Change

Learn more about digital health change management and the framework, and access practical change management tools. Download A Framework and Toolkit for Managing eHealth Change.

Change Management Toolkit

Access practical Change Management tools and resources by accessing the online Change Management Toolkit.



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