In recent years, public and private health organizations in Canada have invested in digital health technologies as a way to improve patient experiences, outcomes and quality of care.
According to Valuing Canadians’ Secure Access to Their Health Information and Digital Health e-Services, a study commissioned by Canada Health Infoway, there are four main types of digital health services:
- e-View – Secure online platforms that allow citizens to access their personal health information
- e-Visit – A patient e-service that allows patients and/or their caregivers the ability to communicate with their healthcare team through secure e-mail or SMS messaging
- Virtual visit – A patient e-service that allows patients and/or their caregivers the ability to meet with their health care provider via a face-to-face virtual encounter, through functions such as video calls
- e-Rx Renew – A patient e-service that allows patients and/or their caregivers to renew prescriptions
What are the benefits of digital health?
Digital health is beneficial for health systems and Canadians, particularly those living with arthritis. For example, digital health services allow you to:
- Avoid or reduce in-person visits to a healthcare provider’s office, helping you conserve energy and avoid prolonged periods of sitting in the car or public transit.
- Increase productivity at work, as you are not taking time off work to see your healthcare provider.
- Renew prescriptions online and see a history of past prescriptions.
- Access care faster in rural and remote communities.
- Access your digital health records, such as lab results. Many people with
an inflammatoryarthritis who are on a biologic or methotrexate get monthly blood tests. Monitoring these test results helps track disease activity and check that medications are not causing any issues.
In 2018, Canada Health Infoway conducted a national study on the value of digital health technology and found that Canadians collectively save $119 to $150 million every year from their use of virtual care and e-Services. Health systems save $106 to $134 million by reducing administration costs and helping Canadians avoid unnecessary in-person appointments, trips to the emergency room and medical errors.
How can I access these services?
The Connecting Patients for Better Health: 2018 report provides the latest availability, use and citizen interest in accessing their health information online as well as digitally enabled health services (e-services). The report is based on the results of four public opinion surveys conducted between February and March 2014 – 2018. There is an increased demand for digital health services. The number of people surveyed who accessed medical records electronically doubled, from 7% in 2016 to 15% in 2018.
Canada Health Infoway, a non-profit agency sponsored by the federal government, is working towards improving access to digital health services in Canada. Many health care centres are also working independently to provide their patients with online services. Consider asking the receptionist to see if any e-services are available at your healthcare provider’s office. Here are some examples of digital health services currently available in Canada:
In some provinces, patients have access to their medical records and or lab results online:
- British Columbia and Ontario: http://myehealth.ca.
- Quebec: https://carnetsante.gouv.qc.ca/portail
- Alberta: MyHealth Records is expected to be available in 2019. Stay tuned on the “What’s New on MyHealth.Alberta.ca” page to learn more.
- Saskatchewan: Residents in rural or remote communities can access this service on the eHealth Saskatchewan website: https://www.ehealthsask.ca/residents/Pages/Telehealth.aspx
- Ask your pharmacist if this service is available at your pharmacy.
- London Drugs allows you to refill your prescriptions and book an appointment with a pharmacist online at https://pharmacy.londondrugs.com
- Shoppers Drug Mart allows you to refill, transfer and keep a record of your prescriptions online at https://www1.shoppersdrugmart.ca/en/home
Other digital resources for arthritis
- Arthritis ID is an app for patients that provides information to help detect, treat and manage arthritis. There is an interactive arthritis screening tool and questionnaire that will help you determine indications of a type of arthritis.
- JointHealth™ Medications Guide enables patients to have a meaningful conversation with their rheumatologist and pharmacist about available therapy options, side effects and route of administration.
- JointHealth™ Education courses help people living with arthritis learn to have more meaningful, fact-based conversations with their rheumatologists, other health care team members, families, friends and employers.
- The Biosim•Exchange is an information hub for consumers to get the latest biosimilars news to help patients learn more biosimilars and their place among inflammatory arthritis treatments.
- Arthritis Research Canada’s ANSWER: Decision Aid for Patients
aimto help you decide if methotrexate is the right treatment option for you. You should use this tool only if you have rheumatoid arthritis and if your doctor has suggested methotrexate as a treatment option.