A qualitative study of Canada's experience with the implementation of electronic health information technology

Rozenblum, Ronen; Jang, Yeona; Zimlichman, Eyal; Salzberg, Claudia; Tamblyn, Melissa; Buckeridge, David; Forster, Alan; Bates, David W.; Tamblyn, Robyn
March 2011
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;3/22/2011, Vol. 183 Issue 5, pE281
Academic Journal
Background: In 2001, Canada Health Infoway unveiled a plan to implement a national system of interoperable electronic health records. This government-funded corporation introduced a novel model for interprovincial/territorial collaboration to establish core aspects of a national framework. Despite this $1.6 billion initiative, Canada continues to lag behind other Western countries in adopting electronic health records. We conducted a study to identify the success of different aspects of the Canadian plan and ways to improve the adoption of electronic health records. Methods: We used a case study approach to assess the 10-year history of Canada's e-health plan. National reports and documents were reviewed, and structured interviews were conducted with 29 key stakeholders representing national and provincial organizations responsible for establishing policy and strategic direction for health information technology. Using grounded theory, we analyzed transcripts of the interviews to identify themes and their relationships. Results: Key stakeholders identified funding, national standards, patient registries and digital imaging as important achievements of the ehealth plan. Lack of an e-health policy, inadequate involvement of clinicians, failure to establish a business case for using electronic health records, a focus on national rather than regional interoperability, and inflexibility in approach were seen as barriers to adoption of the plan. Interpretation: To accelerate adoption of electronic health records and timely return on investment, an e-health policy needs to be tightly aligned with the major strategic directions of health care reform. Adoption needs to be actively fostered through a bottom-up, clinical-needs-first approach, a national policy for investment in electronic health records, and financial incentives based on patient outcomes that can be achieved with electronic health records.


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