Ehealth in the news – EHRs profiled in Canadian Business magazine

by Hans on 2006/03/16

I came across an interesting little article in a recent issue of Canadian Business magazine (Feb. 13-26, 2006) written by Erin Pooley titled, “Health’s digital divide: Electronic health records”. The article caught my eye because it was included in a special theme issue on media and the forthcoming digital transformation. Medicine/health was one of the sectors that is to be transformed by new media technologies. The article itself focused on developing an electronic health record with profiles of Canadian companies and interviews with people like Richard Alvarez (CEO of Canada Health Infoway) and Sam Marafioti (CIO of Sunnybrook & Womens Health Science Centre). I found the article interesting not for the information provided (no “new” information is reported), but because ehealth was profiled as an important issue – independently of health care. Yes, health care is the 800 pound gorilla of public spending in Canada, but the figures that reported were interesting.

Before I forget, I just love this quotation from Sam about why developing an electronic health record (regional or national) is difficult:

You can’t walk up to the health ATM, stick your tongue in it and get a health check. The ATMs have been pretty successful at showing how somebody can get their balance anywhere in the world and draw money. Health doesn’t work as simply as that.

Way to go Sam! Here are some interesting figures:
– Public health care spending in 2005 (projected): $98.8 billion up from $74.7 in 2001

– Cost to build a pan-Canadian EHR: $23 billion over 10 year

– Estimated savings from EHR: $6 billion annually

The value of this article, in my opinion, is not for the information. This article is important because it presents one important infrastructure issue in easy to understand language to a general (if business-oriented) audience. Maybe if the Canadian corporate world realizes that there is money to be made and saved in health care – maybe, just maybe – we might find more resources or at the very least more attention to the issues at hand.

Some thoughts about the article:

– It’s interesting that the author lists adoption as the most important issue in getting the electronic health record up and running.

– Alberta gets favourable coverage as being a leader in Canada. I’m always fascinated that while is hailed as a leader (let’s face it – they’ve done some good work), no-one examines the population and diversity of Alberta as a potential problem when trying to implement Alberta’s solution. From some high-level meetings I’ve attended, Alberta representatives have made some presentations but are surprised at the complexity and size of Ontario (Ontario can be considered as five Alberta-areas). Also, I heard another high-level Alberta official mention how the Alberta situation is unique – they’ve had one government in power for almost two decades I think (Ralph Klein has been around forever).

– Finally – how come no-mention about evaluation? How do we know we’ll realize any of the purported benefits? Are we to trust the vendors? But, that’s just me being the researcher (and this specific question being my research topic).

You can read the full article online at:

{ 1 comment }

Anonymous March 17, 2006 at 7:20 pm

The market numbers are interesting. However, as is also not new, the numbers fail to tell the whole story.

The system (both US and Canada) does result in a savings though there is clear misalignment between those who are expected to pay for the system and those who will actually reap the rewards. Often these are not the same individuals.

Although the potential market is large ($23B) it remains unclear who and more importantly for businesses when the bulk of this spending will occur. I suspect most vendors would be reluctant to tie up significant capital and other assets waiting for the health industry to move forward. This may be an industry where first mover advantage does not apply.

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