Montreal, June 9, 2022 – It is hard to believe that in 2022, health data is still being communicated between institutions and departments via fax in Quebec. According to an MEI publication released today, Quebec’s current system does not allow for an efficient flow of information that would benefit patients, and existing electronic health records lack vital information physicians need to make a proper treatment plan.
“Aside from laboratory results and medications, Quebec’s electronic health records are missing basic information such as past or recent vaccinations, allergies, and the hospitalization summary sheet written by the attending physician after a hospital stay,” says Maria Lily Shaw, economist at the MEI. “Doctors are forced to waste precious time, at taxpayer expense, following a paper trail to try and glean any information they can on their patients in order to determine the proper diagnosis and treatment.”
“The lack of communication between the systems in place increases the chances of miscommunication or losing vital information in the treatment process,” explains Krystle Wittevrongel, public policy analyst at the MEI. “This can result in the patient undergoing unnecessary repeat testing, which is an enervating event for the patient and an expensive one for the system. And this is not uncommon, especially in oncology and pediatrics.”
The Alberta Netcare Portal is an important international reference that Quebec should use as an inspiration for electronic health records. It provides health professionals with all the key information needed to make decisions and determine the best course of treatment.
Making Health Data Accessible to Researchers
Beyond the undeniable utility of an accessible medical history for patients and clinicians, routinely collected and detailed health data is also needed to conduct research. “Many studies rely on existent health information for research in various fields such as epidemiology and public health. These studies have provided public health officials with valuable conclusions and insights, and gives hope to people with rare or chronic conditions,” notes Ms. Wittevrongel.
Ontario’s ICES (formerly the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences) is a good place for Quebec to look for a model of an access centre for research. The institute collaborates with data custodians, government, policy-makers, and health system stakeholders to analyze anonymous administrative health data.
As for social acceptability regarding health data sharing, Quebecers are ready to move forward and contribute to important research efforts. “Almost 80% of the population in Quebec would accept that researchers have access to their health data as long as the information provided does not allow them to be identified. Luckily, this is just the kind of data that researchers want,” adds Maria Lily Shaw.
Reforms for the improvement of the collection, storage, and accessibility of health data are required to better serve patients today and facilitate research that will benefit them tomorrow. It is more than time for Quebec to join other provinces with 21st century electronic health records.
The publication entitled “Improving Access to Health Data in Quebec” is available on the MEI’s website.
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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.
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Josée Morissette, Senior Advisor, Media Relations