A report by consulting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP (PwC), commissioned by the Canada Health Infoway—a not-for-profit organization tasked with accelerating the development of electronic medical records (EMR) across Canada—has found $1.3 billion in savings from the implementation of EMRs by family physicians across Canada over the last six years.
The PwC study examined the switch to EMRs by family doctors from across Canada between 2006 and 2012 and found that Canada’s healthcare system saved an estimated:
- 800 million Canadian dollars in administrative efficiencies (less time by staff pulling and filing charts or processing finding lab test results, less time by doctors reading and maintaining paper files).
- 584 million Canadian dollars in health system benefits (reduced duplicate diagnostic testing, reduced adverse drug events).
The study also found that EMR adoption contributed to: improved chronic disease management and illness prevention (higher mammogram screening rates, higher pneumonia and flu vaccination rates); and improved communication amongst care team members and between providers and patients (less time spent repeating patient histories among care providers, electronic alerts prompting follow-up care for things like medication recalls).
Adoption of EMRs by primary care physicians in Canada has more than doubled between 2006 and 2012 from 23 percent to 56 percent, according to a Commonwealth Fund Survey. This increase in adoption has been supported to a large extent through investments by the provinces and territories in EMR programs, physician practices, and Infoway. As expected, there is variability in EMR adoption across the country, and those jurisdictions with defined EMR programs have experienced the most significant gains.
Since implementing EMRs, 67 percent of Saskatchewan’s family physicians, office managers, and specialists have reported that their medical practices are more or significantly more productive than before. Ninety-four percent of physicians enrolled in Alberta’s EMR program reported that their patients receive their test results faster, and 97 percent said that tests and investigations are no longer needlessly repeated. And 63 percent of Ontario family physicians and specialists reported that patient safety has improved within the first year if implementing their EMR.
"Users of electronic medical records, their patients and the health system are already seeing efficiency, safety and teamwork benefits thanks to investments by governments and health care providers that have increased the number of clinicians using these tools," Richard Alvarez, president and CEO, Canada Health Infoway, said in a statement. "We expect significant additional gains as adoption grows, use matures, and connections to other care settings expand."