As President of Patients Canada, I’m excited to share the work we’ve been doing on Key Performance Targets (KPTs) with those of you following my blog. It’s a very important project and I invite your feedback and comments. Find more information about Patients Canada on our website.
eHealth has changed considerably over the last year. Patients now have apps that allow us to monitor our heart rates, photograph the inside of our ears, even perform an electrocardiogram using our mobile phones. These technological breakthroughs are enthralling and no doubt will begin to transform healthcare in the future.
But in a far more prosaic way, we see the beginnings of what and how we want out of eHealth. Canada Health Infoway is helping family practices adopt ways to book appointments online. Yesterday Infoway announced the second wave of registration for this initiative: they will provide financial support to practices that introduce e-booking. After the first wave more than 700,000 Canadians can book appointments online. To see examples of e-booking initiatives presently underway across Canada, click here, or read the latest benefits evaluation report on e-booking.
Having the ability to schedule an appointment online is a good example of a Key Performance Target (KPT) for primary care. It marks the launch of widespread electronic communications between patients and our doctors’ offices. When it becomes widespread it will bring Canada closer to the international level of electronic interaction between patients and their doctors.
Through patient surveys we have identified some simple things that patients want as targets in primary care.
Key Performance Target 1: We want to be able to make appointments online
Key Performance Target 2: We want to be able to access test results online
Key Performance Target 3. We want to be able to renew prescriptions online
Key Performance Target 4: We want to be able to communicate with our doctors online
Canada remains among the worst of the developed countries to have these four capacities for patients. Whenever I speak to information technology groups I ask if anyone has their doctor’s email address. So far very few people speak up, if any. Some people can get test results online through MyChart. And the fax machine remains a necessity almost everywhere for renewing prescriptions. But now we have the hopeful sign that in a growing number of practices appointments can be made online.
- Making appointments online will begin to spread now as doctors recognize the freedom it gives their administrative staff to do other things.
- As patients we can take the lead in expecting that electronic communications should increase. As electronic medical records become more pervasive our family doctors should be able to share test results with us online. In fact, there is a growing movement of creating ‘shared notes': some doctors are partnering with patients to prepare the notes for each visit and then preparing a copy for them to take home.
- There are already no serious technical obstacles to renewing prescriptions online. It has just not been agreed to overcome them. In fact, most of the major pharmacies already allow access to patients prescription history across their entire network. The step to easy prescription renewal is modest.
- A small but growing number of Canadian doctors are beginning to circulate their email addresses to patients and are setting up ways for their patients to reach them more easily. Those who have done so have found that patients really appreciate this increased access and the doctors do not find the effort burdensome. In fact, for most it makes their lives significantly easier: It can avert unnecessary visits and more time can be allocated to patients who need more face-to-face time.
We are hopeful that these four performance targets are widely achieved. We look forward to next year’s measurement.