November 13, 2019

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Ontario Expanding Digital and Virtual Health Care

Giving Patients More Options Part of Province’s Plan to End Hallway Health Care

Ontario's new Digital First for Health strategy will bring the patient experience into the 21st century and help end hallway health care by offering more choices and making health care simpler, easier and more convenient for patients. At the same time, this new strategy will harness the imagination and capabilities of Ontario's digital health innovators to improve care for all Ontarians. 

Today, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, was at Trillium Health Partners' Credit Valley Hospital to announce the five pillars of the government's Digital First for Health strategy. Once this new strategy is fully implemented, patients can expect:

  1. More virtual care options: Expanding availability of video visits and enabling other virtual care tools such as secure messaging. Additionally, providers will be able to leverage a variety of virtual care technologies that best meet the needs of their patients.
  2. Expanded access to online appointment booking: Patients will be able to book appointments that best meet their needs.
  3. Greater data access for patients: More patients will be able to review their secure health record online and make informed choices about their care.
  4. Better, more connected tools for frontline providers: More providers will be able to access patient records stored across multiple health service providers to provide better, faster care.
  5. Data integration and predictive analytics: Providers will face fewer barriers to integrating and using secure health information to manage health resources and improve patient care. This could lead to improvements such as earlier intervention and better management of chronic disease.

"Ontario is adopting new digital practices and technologies that will improve the patient experience and help end hallway health care by expanding access to digital and virtual care options," said Elliott. "Our Digital First for Health strategy will support how we will achieve a modern and fully connected health care system. For Ontarians, this will mean being able to choose how they receive care and services, control over how to access personal health information, and not needing to retell their stories. For health care providers, this will mean having the necessary information and supports at their fingertips, enabling them to focus on care rather than technology."

The first phase of the digital strategy will increase the availability of virtual care with approximately 55,000 more video visits provided by physicians directly to patients in their location of choice over the next year. To do so, the government will invest $3 million in new funding to compensate physicians for video visits they are now able to provide. In doing so, patients will enjoy more flexibility to access care through video visits. More patients will be able to have secure video visits with their health care providers from their location of choice, such as the comfort of their own home. Patients will still be able to see their providers in person, but this will allow providers to use video visits to provide their patients with more options to access their services.

In addition, this first phase will enable Ontario Health Teams to collect, use and share information to allow for better patient care and outcomes. This will improve convenience for patients and promote more connected care by ensuring patients won't need to retell their health information over and over. This will be achieved through the proposed changes Ontario is making to modernize the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) that will also introduce stricter provisions for any individual or organization that misuses personal health information.

As the development and implementation of digital first approach to health continues, the government will make continued investments to expand digital health solutions in support of the full implementation of the strategy.

"Ontario is already a world leader in providing specialized care video visits to patients at health care facilities across the province, improving access to care in our most northern and rural communities," said Dr. Ed Brown, CEO of Ontario Telemedicine Network. "Recently, we've focused on more innovative virtual care options that connect patients directly with health care providers easily and conveniently through their own personal computer or smartphone. The ability to connect virtually enables patients to receive care when and where they need it."

Ontario has a comprehensive plan to end hallway health care, which includes making investments and advancing new initiatives across four pillars:

  1. Prevention and health promotion: keeping patients as healthy as possible in their communities and out of hospitals.
  2. Providing the right care in the right place: when patients need care, ensure that they receive it in the most appropriate setting, not always the hospital. This includes expanding Ontarians' access to new digital and virtual care options through Ontario's Digital First for Health strategy.
  3. Integration and improved patient flow: better integrate care providers to ensure patients spend less time waiting in hospitals when they are ready to be discharged.
  4. Building capacity: build new hospital and long-term care beds while increasing community-based services across Ontario.

QUICK FACTS

  • Two thirds of Canadians are interested in consulting with various health care providers through a virtual platform.
  • Video visits won’t be appropriate for every type of doctor’s visit but interested Ontarians should talk to their doctors to see if this solution is available and appropriate for them.
  • The government will continue to engage and consult with health care providers, patients and privacy experts to enable the broader Digital First for Health strategy.