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Access to Digital Health e-Services Helps Canadians Avoid Unnecessary Trips to Doctors and Delivers Significant Value to the Health Care System

Personal health records and other e-services provide $106 to $134 million a year in value to the health care system

July 12, 2018 (Toronto) — Both Canadians and the health care system benefit when patients can access their personal health records (PHRs) online and use digital health e-services, according to a new study conducted by SRDC (Social Research and Demonstration Corporation) for Canada Health Infoway.

The study found that, with current rates of digital health technology adoption, Canadians collectively reap approximately $119 to $150 million in value each year. This value is derived by avoiding time off work, and travel and other costs associated with a trip to the doctor’s office.

Health systems also benefit. Current adoption generates $106 to $134 million in value to the health system. This is because patients with access to their health information and the ability to connect with their doctor electronically avoid unnecessary phone calls and in-person visits with their doctor and have fewer trips to the emergency department. Online access to health record information also saves time and helps avoid medical errors.

The table below lists the current value to the health system and to Canadians as a result of various e-services being available.

Service
(Current Adoption Rate)
DefinitionCurrent Value to Health System AnnuallyCurrent Value to Patients Annually
e-Views
(7-8%)
The ability to view personal health records online $81-$96 million $36- $39 million
e-Visits
(5-8%)
The ability to send secure emails or texts to a health care provider $6-$15 million $26-$42 million
Virtual Visits
(3-4%)
Face-to-face videoconferencing with a doctor $1.8-$2.3 million $14-$18 million
e-Rx Renew
(10-12%)
An electronic request for a prescription renewal $18-$20 million $42-$50 million
Total Value   $106-$134 million $119-$150 million

These benefits are significant and the value generated will only increase as availability of PHRs and digital health e-services advances across Canada. For example, current figures reflect relatively low availability and use rates of between three and 12 per cent. When use reaches 50 per cent, the value of benefits to the system and to Canadians will also increase. Were adoption to increase from current rates to 50 per cent, the value would jump to between $720 and $746 million for the health care system and another $940 million for patients.

Not only do Canadians gain value as a result of online access to their health information and digitally enabled health-services, they can become more confident in managing their health condition and say they have better communication with their care teams. A number of recent evaluation reports from Canadian projects highlight:

  • Improvements in accuracy of health information
  • More informed discussions with their doctor
  • Increased likelihood of renewing prescriptions on time
  • Improved self-management of chronic health conditions

“Investments in personal health records and digital health e-services translate into significant value for Canadians and the health care system,” said Michael Green, President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway. “And these benefits will continue to accrue as digital health adoption accelerates.”

The study is available at www.infoway-inforoute.ca/PHRstudy.

About Canada Health Infoway

Canada Health Infoway helps to improve the health of Canadians by working with partners to accelerate the development, adoption and effective use of digital health across Canada. Through our investments, we help deliver better quality and access to care and more efficient delivery of health services for patients and clinicians. Infoway is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government.

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Poonam Khanna
Canada Health Infoway
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