Healthcare providers have been using electronic medical records (EMRs) for decades as digital versions of paper-based medical records. By using an electronic medical record, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals can securely store and access patient information, including their medical history, diagnoses, medications, and test results.
It has become increasingly common for primary care providers in Canada to use electronic medical records to improve the quality and efficiency of their patient care. The use of electronic medical records (EMRs) allows primary care providers to access a patient's medical history in real time, allowing them to make informed decisions about their care. EMRs also facilitate the coordination of care between healthcare professionals, which is particularly important in the context of primary care, where patients may visit several doctors and specialists for a variety of health conditions.
EMRs have proven to be beneficial for Canadian primary care clinics in improving patient outcomes, improving the patient experience, and streamlining their daily operations.
The purpose of this blog post is to provide an overview of the adoption and use of EMRs in Canadian primary care.
More than 87% of Canadian primary care physicians are using an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) to store patient records as part of their daily practice. Even though most hospitals and large organizations have moved to more advanced and modern EMRs like Epic, Cerner, and Meditech recently, most clinics and medical practices still use old, outdated software.
There are, however, several factors contributing to the growth of EMRs in Canadian primary care. For example, finance and support from the government and other stakeholders have been key drivers of the revolution. The Canadian federal government provides grants and other incentives to encourage primary care providers to adopt EMRs. Furthermore, many primary care clinics and organizations are investing in EMRs due to their benefits.
Another factor contributing to EMR growth in primary care is the development of user-friendly, cheap EMR systems. Before EMRs became more widely adopted, primary care providers were wary due to concerns about their complexity and cost.
The costs of implementing a modern EMR are high, and many clinics and practices opt to stay with what they are already using, despite numerous reports that many traditional EMR methods contribute to physician burnout.
Listed below are the major Canadian electronic medical record companies and their operating systems. Over 95% of primary care EMRs in healthcare are operated by these three software companies; Telus Health, WELL Health, and QHR Technologies.
In essence, these companies acquire and manage a large number of electronic medical records (EMRs) used in primary care. As an example:
WELL Health now operates Oscar Pro, Intra Health, Juno, and Aware MD with more than 23,000 physicians.
Telus Health operates the largest number of EMRs including CHR (Input Health), PS Suite, Med Access, Medesync, and Wolf with more than 40,000 physicians.
QHR Technologies operates Accuro with around 20,000 physicians.
Some of these EMRs were created through McMaster University's Oscar open-source project. Some of these EMRs are OSCAR Pro, Juno, Indivicare, and Avaros. Since most of these EMRs operate in the same manner, moving from one to another should be very straightforward if you are familiar with the other. There are primarily small adjustments to the user interface that account for the differences.
It is also noteworthy to mention Arya Health, a modern EMR solution that is beginning to gain popularity in the British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick provinces. As a cloud-based platform, Arya offers telehealth, documentation, forms, patient portals, surveys, scheduling, and online booking anywhere at any time.
When it comes to deciding which EMR best suits your practice, you should take into account the following factors:
At the time of writing this blog post, there are still several major EMRs in Canadian primary care that are desktop applications.
A web-based EMR, or cloud-based EMR, is an electronic health record system accessed through a web browser instead of an application installed locally on the computer. Having access to the EMR from any location with an internet connection makes it convenient and flexible for many practices. Medical records could be accessed from a computer at home, a laptop at the hospital, or even a smartphone and tablet.
A desktop-based EMR, on the other hand, is installed on a local computer or server and is only accessible from that device. A doctor would have to be in the office or have access to the device on which the EMR is installed if he or she wanted access to any patient's medical records. Smaller practices or those with limited internet access may find desktop EMRs to be more suitable.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both web-based and desktop-based electronic medical records, and the right solution for a particular practice depends on the unique needs and resources of the facility.
PS Suite and Accuro, both desktop-based EMRs, are the most widely used in Canadian primary care. As opposed to OSCAR pro, Juno, CHR (Input Health), etc, which are web-based and accessible anywhere with internet access.
Integrating other technologies easily with an EMR is a great way to extend its functionality. With their apps.health store, WELL Health is leading the way in providing an integration layer for other technologies. Similar to the Apple App Store for iPhone, the Apps.health store allows physicians to choose the solutions that they want to use to make their EMR more intelligent. Tali AI is one example of these apps. It is a voice assistant that helps physicians and clinicians input and find information by voice commands and is used in conjunction with EMRs to enhance their functionality.
Each of these companies has a different level of service based on which company maintains your EMR and where it ranks on its priority list. For example, Telus Health has developed a strategy to gradually move all of its physicians to a CHR (Input Health).
As a result, if you use one of their other EMRs (Med Access, for example), you won't receive as many bug fixes and feature enhancements as you would with CHR. It should be noted that QHR is less actively involved in improving and maintaining Accuro than WELL Health and Talus Health.
Therefore, if you are interested in an EMR that is continuously improving and integrates with other solutions, we suggest trying an EMR provided by Telus Health or WELL Health.
You can also talk to your local health authority for recommendations for certified EMRs for physicians in addition to all of the items mentioned above. For instance, OntarioMD reviews and validates EMRs for physicians on this list. This organization reviews and validates the EMRs of these organizations so that practices and physicians do not have to go through the process individually.
Ultimately, EMRs improve patient care and increase efficiency in the healthcare industry. There are still opportunities and challenges associated with the implementation of EMRs in Canada, but the adoption of these systems is growing.
Throughout this blog post, we have provided an overview of the guide and highlighted some key considerations. By implementing the right EMR, healthcare providers can better serve their patients and support the Canadian healthcare system as a whole.
Contact us if you would like to learn more about different EMRs in Canadian primary care, and their user cases.