Proponents of eHealth argue that if other regions of the world have made significant strides in eHealth technology, what’s wrong with Canada? Caving in to what everyone else is doing is an injudicious argument. Although we cannot be left out of the globalization loop, we need to proceed with caution.
While an eHealth record system will improve time efficiency, wait times, and patient safety (by lowering the risk of drug interactions), scrutiny and diligence are necessary as we move forward.
There are big bucks to be made by individuals and enterprises, aggressively driving this venture, yet we must learn from the eHealth debacle in Ontario where more than $1 billion was wasted through lack of oversight, broken rules and decadent consultant contracts.
Health Canada has added $500 million to the $2 billion given to the Canada Health Infoway to revolutionize Canada’s health records. While this sounds great, it is estimated that Canadians will have to pay at least $23 billion in capital and operating costs over the next decade.
Although touted as an economic stimulus to create jobs, according to a Canadian Business Online report, most of this money will be stuffed into the coffers of U.S. multinational corporations, providing the sophisticated eHealth record software.
Given tough economic times and our strained health-care system, many argue that money will be better spent for drugs, senior care and additional health-care staff, at least until we come up with an efficient plan of eHealth implementation.
Another consideration: Privacy assurances. Who could forget the 11,500 patient files that were skimmed by a hacker from the AHS Edmonton network in May. No one really knows how far information went, nor the potential long-term effects of such a privacy violation to the patients involved.
The progress of eHealth in Canada must not be driven by greed or a need to keep up with global counterparts, but instead by patient interests, health-care efficiencies and long-term costs. For this to happen effectively, caution and public scrutiny are our first lines of defence.