Innovation is essential in health care

Technology has completely changed the way we deliver healthcare. Surgeries that used to take hours now take minutes, and are far less invasive. We can detect issues faster, and more accurately. 3D printing to produce drugs based on our individual DNA may soon change the way our pharmacies dispense our medications.

Consider everything we do online including banking, shopping or, social networking. Innovation in these sectors through technology has changed the way we engage with businesses and each other. While visiting a family doctor is one of the most common experiences New Brunswickers rely on from their government (87% of New Brunswickers who have a family doctor visited them in the last twelve months), the way both patients and doctors interact with the healthcare system has seen little change. We largely continue to call our family doctor for an appointment, where they will write some notes on a paper chart. These are faxed to a specialist if needed, or if no follow-up is required, filed until your next visit.

This traditional image is evolving as more doctors in New Brunswick are using the Provincial Electronic Medical Record (Provincial EMR) to document their patient care. This means that instead of meeting you in an exam room carrying a folder with your medical history, your family doctor or specialist may be charting your care in your electronic medical record.

In 2012, doctors recognized that they needed to take a leadership position on introducing technology into their records management practice and developed the Provincial EMR system for New Brunswick. The Provincial EMR was first implemented in a clinic in 2013 and quickly became the new standard of recording patient information. Today, over 1,300 medical staff in clinics across New Brunswick use the Provincial EMR. The health information of over 550,000 New Brunswickers is currently stored in the system. This number will continue to increase with the new partnership recently announced between the provincial government and the New Brunswick Medical Society, encouraging more doctors to implement this technology in their practice.

What does this mean for patients? Simply put, it allows for enhanced patient care. Electronic medical records can save lives by automatically alerting a doctor if two of your prescribed medications shouldn’t be taken together. It prompts for cancer screenings or diabetes testing, based on your medical and family history. The Provincial EMR grants your doctor faster access to your lab results – allowing them to talk to you about a treatment plan sooner. It allows patients to book and modify appointments online, at their convenience.

Bringing leading technology to the Province and changing the way we interact with the healthcare system has allowed the New Brunswick Medical Society to introduce an innovative program called Family Medicine New Brunswick (FMNB). This a new program allows doctors to work together from different offices. Doctors in a group access each other’s patient’s medical records through the Provincial EMR. These records are stored in the cloud with incredible safety standards which are stricter than those required for online banking. Patients of these FMNB clinics can often see their family doctor (or another health professional with access to their electronic medical record) faster, and may have options to talk to their doctor by phone or online when an in-person visit isn’t necessary. For doctors, joining this model means their patients are taken care of when they are working outside the clinic, ill, or on vacation. This peace of mind is incredibly valuable for both doctors and patients.

We were honoured to recently accept the People’s Choice Knowledge and Innovation Recognition Award (KIRA) for FMNB. This support is incredibly meaningful to us. Aiming to change the way 754,000 people – every single New Brunswicker – receives care is no small task. However, we have the technology, the momentum, and the drive to get it done. Let’s keep moving towards making New Brunswick’s health care system innovative, with leading-edge technology, to provide quality primary care in a timely fashion. It will help our goal of making New Brunswick become one of the top three heathiest provinces in 10 years.

Dr. Dharm Singh

President of the New Brunswick Medical Society