I saw a tremendous opportunity for patient engagement – the opportunity to give patients access to information, to get involved in and take ownership of their own health.
“The phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ makes me shudder,” said Dr. Stewart Cameron. “We should always be looking for ways to improve what we do and how we do it.”
Dr. Cameron is a family physician at the Dalhousie Family Medicine Clinics in Halifax. His career has included stints in B.C. and N.S., as well as 12 months on the North Island of New Zealand. It was during his time in New Zealand that he saw the potential of electronic medical records (EMRs) for transforming health care.
Dr. Cameron brought what he’d learned about EMRs back to Canada with him and looked for opportunities to put that knowledge to work. He got involved with MyHealthNS – the secure portal that allows patients and physicians to share and review health information online – at its earliest stages. He joined the project steering committee and then participated in the pilot project that saw MyHealthNS tested by 30 physicians and about 6,000 patients.
“I’m always intrigued by real innovation,” he said. “I saw a tremendous opportunity for patient engagement – the opportunity to give patients access to information, to get involved in and take ownership of their own health.”
“Feedback from patients is clear: they love using MyHealthNS,” said Dr. Cameron. “But the reality is that it means more work for physicians: learning something new, changing their work routines, and potentially spending more time on administrative tasks.”
“I don’t have a huge practice, so reviewing the results and sending secure messages to my patients about their results only takes about half an hour a day. I review the results and then release them with a note to the patient – using the secure messaging capability – with a brief note,” said Dr. Cameron. “But physicians with a huge practice might choose not to do that, because it would be too time consuming.
“We have to appreciate the fact that there’s still no fee schedule item for using this technology. Physicians in the pilot project received an honorarium for the time they committed, but they told us we needed to have this extra work reimbursed on an ongoing basis.
“We need to come up with a payment model that supports this type of work.”
While Dr. Cameron acknowledges that there’s still work to be done to make MyHealthNS fully functional, he also celebrates how far the project has come.
“I really think that Nova Scotia is to be applauded for taking this on. We’re the first province in Canada to tackle online personal health records – and we didn’t just run a pilot project, we actually followed through,” said. Dr. Cameron. “I’m proud to have been a part of the group that made it happen.”