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51 million hours wasted in a doctor's waiting room
October 25, 2012
CALGARY, AB, Oct. 25,2012/ Troy Media/ – Some of the great innovators in retailing in the past decade emerged as giants because they recognized that consumers prefer the convenience of electronic delivery.
Think of how Apple enables you to buy music instantly via iTunes, Amazon can deliver a book to your e-reader while you’re luxuriating by the pool, or Netflix makes the trip to the local video store a thing of the past.
And yet, only a handful (between four per cent and eight per cent) of health care consumers in Canada experience similar conveniences when it comes to even the simplest needs, such as reviewing routine test results or getting a prescription renewed.
Not surprisingly, new research shows that Canadians are eager to see digital health care evolve. In fact, one of several recent independent studies commissioned by Canada Health Infoway – an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government – found that fully 92 per cent of Canadians support a move from paper to digital in health care.
Canadians want to ensure their health care providers can efficiently exchange their health information securely. And three out of four people surveyed believe that electronic health information sharing among health care providers will improve quality of care.
But it doesn’t end there: Technology savvy consumers have already seen what electronic information exchange can do in the workplace and at home, and they want more than a simple exchange of health care information. They also want the ability to access their records so they can view lab results. They want to schedule appointments and request prescription renewals online and e-consult with their clinicians.
Imagine the convenience of not having to race across town, only to cool your heels in the doctor’s office, just to get a simple prescription renewed. It all adds up to a new level of empowerment for the health care consumer, a reflection perhaps of the entry of Generation Y (those born after 1980) into their most potent career-building years. But it is not limited to that cohort; just as we’ve seen Boomers in their 50s embrace social media, they too seek the convenience and enhanced value of full electronic health care delivery. And research confirms most Canadians believe a shift to electronic health records will transform the Canadian health care system.
The consumer benefits boil down to added convenience and enhanced control. The Conference Board of Canada report Valuing Time Saved: Assessing the Impact of Patient Time Saved from the Adoption of Consumer Health Solutions concluded Canadians could have avoided 47 million in-person visits if they had access to consumer health applications. Of that, an estimated 51 million hours of personal time would have been freed up for non-work activity. More hours with family beats a time-gobbling visit to a waiting room any day.
These are not theoretical benefits, either. Experience in other jurisdictions shows that consumer health solutions do indeed achieve the desired outcomes. Denmark, Finland and Sweden have all developed more patient-centric health care systems, which leverage electronic health records to enable consumers to be more involved in making decisions regarding their own health.
Denmark, in particular, is moving towards giving patients access to the same data available to their health care providers – including medical history and hospital records. Surely, a more open health care process will encourage some individuals to become more proactive in their health care.
A shift to a fully electronic health care system will require significant capital investments, but a substantial majority of Canadians support that investment. In fact, three out of four Canadians believe the benefits of electronic health records outweigh the costs.
With this level of public desire for change, ample evidence exists to support an accelerated shift to electronic health care delivery. Beyond improved service and care, reductions in lost work time and gains in productivity will, over time, pay back upfront capital investments required.
Doug Firby is Editor-in-Chief of Troy Media.
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