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Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

We’re Making Health Care Better, Together: Digital Health Week

Our health care system is at a crossroads. The impact of new technologies, an aging population, increased cost pressures and greater demands for services are just a few of the challenges that we are facing. As our health care system evolves to meet these challenges, digital health represents the many different ways that technology is providing innovative solutions and facilitating a more connected health care team.

Community pharmacists frequently use digital health solutions in their practice like provincial drug information systems (DIS), access to lab results, electronic medical record (EMR)-generated prescriptions and electronic drug and therapeutic resources, such as CPhA’s RxTx. These technologies are improving productivity and quality of care, giving pharmacists the ability to provide more seamless, coordinated care with other members of the health care team.

We know digital health is making a difference in patient care and safety. According to a survey of community pharmacists  conducted in 2014 by the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) and Canada Health Infoway, most pharmacists use digital health solutions on a daily basis, recognize the benefits and want increased access to continue to enhance the safety and quality of care they are providing patients.

Survey Highlights

  • Community pharmacists that have access to a DIS said they accessed it frequently with 49 per cent saying they use it for every patient/prescription and 37 per cent accessing it several times a day
  • Respondents with DIS access stated that it increased productivity (61 per cent) and quality of care (92 per cent) and provided improvements in patient safety activities such as conducting medication reviews, performing medication reconciliation and identifying potential drug-related problems such as duplications, drug interactions or allergies
  • When EMR-generated prescriptions are compared to hand-written or telephone prescriptions, pharmacists reported that digital tools are significantly improving care through better legibility (91 per cent), increased productivity (71 per cent), improved selection of the drug (64 per cent) and correct dose of the drug (66 per cent).
  • While they are still a minority, community pharmacists with access to electronic laboratory results through provincial/territorial information systems benefited from improved productivity (56 per cent) and quality of care (87 per cent)
  • Pharmacists who do not currently have access to a provincial DIS or laboratory test results would overwhelmingly like to have it to help inform patient care (96 per cent and 91 per cent respectively)

E-prescribing: the electronic sharing of prescription information between health providers

While the benefits of digital health in the pharmacy setting are clear, CPhA has been advocating to advance e-prescribing across Canada –a key area where technology can have a significant positive impact.  In fact, the development and implementation of a common harmonized system for e-prescribing was one of three election 2015 recommendations made by CPhA to federal parties.

E-prescribing can allow for the integration of safety and alert systems when prescriptions are used, reducing the possibility of errors, the back and forth communication between providers and adverse drug reactions.

When we look at the positive impact that EMR-generated prescriptions present, it’s only natural to anticipate the potential that full electronic prescribing will provide for the clinical community and Canadians as a whole. With over 600 million prescriptions filled each year by Canadian pharmacists, the benefits of e-prescribing not only accrue to the patient individually, but to the overall health care system by increasing the safety of dispensing and monitoring of medication therapy while helping to inform decision-making by providing medication history, drug, therapeutic, formulary and cost information at the point of prescribing.

Every day, the work we’re doing together is transforming Canada’s health care system. Digital health is a key driver for transforming health care delivery, and it will continue to help provider safer, faster and more effective care.

From November 16-22, join us in celebrating Digital Health Week and learn more about the value and benefits of digital health for all Canadians. Learn more at BetterHealthTogether.ca  and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #thinkdigitalhealth.

Thanks for reading,

Phil Emberley,
Director, Professional Affairs