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E-health: What it is and why it matters

Technology is a vital piece of the health-care puzzle in Nova Scotia.

Many physicians use an electronic medical record (EMR) to track and maintain important patient health information, such as test results and care plans. Hospitals use multiple health information systems to manage patient records and laboratory and diagnostic test results. Community pharmacists have a computer system that tracks each customer’s medication history. In fact, health-care professionals in Nova Scotia use hundreds of different clinical information systems.

The thing is, most of these health information systems don’t work together. This means that each patient’s health information is contained in multiple separate systems – there’s no central record that’s accessible by each of a patient’s health-care providers.

It’s time to change this. Developing a single system to manage everyone’s health information would benefit both patients and health-care providers.

Timelier, safer and more efficient care

Patients would receive timelier, safer and more efficient care if each person had a centralized personal medical record – one record securely shared between all of that patient’s physicians and health-care providers. Patients would also benefit from having access to their own health information – allowing them to be partners in their own care.

Care providers working together

Using a single health information system would allow doctors and other health-care providers to communicate and work together more efficiently, sending referrals with less delay and making diagnoses and developing treatment plans more quickly. It would also improve patient safety, because all providers would have access to each patient’s health information – for example, your pharmacist would be able to see all the medications you had been prescribed, making it easier for them to identify an issue.

A single health information system would also allow health system officials to monitor and track health trends across the province, allowing the government and health authority to better plan services to meet the needs of the population.

The vision

Nova Scotia’s provincial government has a vision for a single health information system: One Person, One Record (OPOR). OPOR would either replace or connect the province’s current health information systems. It’s going to take time and a large financial investment to make the change, but it will be worth it.

Small steps in the right direction

Nova Scotia’s health-care system is already taking small steps toward OPOR. For example, MyHealthNS is a web portal that allows patients and doctors to share information such as lab and diagnostic reports. Other components, including e-communication and e-scheduling, could improve patients’ access to family doctors by allowing them to communicate online; this could free up appointments for patients who really need face-to-face care.

Act now

Doctors believe that an integrated e-health system, such as OPOR, must be a priority for our province. It would create the electronic infrastructure our doctors need to deliver the care that Nova Scotians deserve.

Talk to candidates about your health-care concerns – when they knock on your door, through social media or when you meet them at public debates.