Saskatchewan people have made it clear—they want quick and easy access to their own personal health information. That's the message eHealth Saskatchewan (eHealth) has been hearing from an increasingly large number of people and many of them speak from experience.
In 2016, more than 1,100 Saskatchewan people participated in eHealth's six-month pilot program called the Citizen Health Information Portal—or CHIP—a secure website that gives participants secure access to their own personal health information such as laboratory results, prescriptions, immunizations, and hospital visits. Participants could also add personal health information, set reminders to take medications, track trends in their health data and results, and enter upcoming appointments.
Most of the people who took part in this unique opportunity to manage their own health were not disappointed. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. So much so that eHealth continues to renew all participants' access to CHIP to this day.
Throughout the six-month pilot, eHealth conducted surveys, focus groups and advisory committee meetings with both participants and health care providers in an effort to gather as much feedback as possible about the program. Eighty-nine per cent of participants said that having access to their personal health information has been very valuable and 88 per cent said that having access to their health information will help them better manage an existing health issue and avoid future health issues. Seventy-four per cent of participants said they experienced a positive impact from sharing their personal health information with a family member or health care provider.
Medical doctor Milo Fink says the pilot was a game-changer.
"It seems to me that people themselves are in the best position to make the safest and most efficient decisions about their health when they have quick and easy access to their own health information," said Dr. Fink. "Rolling out a program like CHIP to all Saskatchewan people would create the potential for one of the most important health care improvements I have seen in my career."
Many of the participants agree with Dr. Fink. Some have even said that the pilot program is changing their lives for the better.
Regina resident Lisa Mulgrew is one such participant. She says the pilot enabled her to take a more active role in managing Type 1 diabetes as well as her overall health.
"I went to my family physician to get some bloodwork done and was excited to see that, soon after, all of my results were available in my CHIP profile," said Mulgrew. "The program even explains if my results are normal or high and I can compare all of my current and previous results with the click of a button. Plus, all of my prescriptions are listed on my profile so I can easily keep track of them -- it's the best thing ever!
"I have been telling people about the program and showing it to my family and friends. They all love the idea and hope a program like this becomes available to everyone."
Tyler Moss is another participant who values having quick and easy access to his health information. At the age of 35, Moss was diagnosed with Left Renal Artery Stenosis. Since then, he's had frequent blood tests and other medical tests.
"I am able to go into the system anytime I want to look up my information and ensure that it is both timely and up-to-date," said Moss. "I like being able to access the information at my fingertips."
Easy online access to health records can lead to improved patient care as it allows health care providers to make quicker, more informed decisions. While quick access to health information could be beneficial for anyone, it's especially important for those who have recently changed doctors, moved within Canada, or need medical attention while traveling anywhere in the world.
Saskatchewan people continue to show a strong interest in CHIP. eHealth continues to receive questions on a regular basis about when a similar program will be offered more broadly in Saskatchewan. As such, eHealth's list of people waiting to gain access to a future program grows every week.
The pilot program is just one of the many ways that eHealth is working to make health care information more readily available to both patients and their health care teams.
Joanne Petersen, Registered Nurse and President of the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association, says today's society is more digitally connected and points to norms like online shopping and banking.
"With these trends, comes the need for health information to connect digitally," said Petersen. "eHealth's CHIP connected Saskatchewan residents to their electronic heath information like never before. When residents are actively engaged and connected to their personal health information, the benefits to their health are profound.
"Imagine a Type 1 diabetic feeling the satisfaction of reaching their target HbgA1C and walking proudly into their Nurse Practitioner's clinic knowing in advance they have met their goal. Or a chronic kidney disease client following their renal panel and electrolyte levels from home, catching early worsening levels and seeking care sooner.
"Expect to see a population much more engaged and involved in their care. After all, it is their health information."
Because the pilot has been so well received by both participants and health care providers, eHealth continues to work towards a broader rollout of a similar program for all Saskatchewan people.
Stay tuned for more exciting updates from eHealth!