The Virtual Care Context

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a re-examination of Canada’s health system and the ways in which it delivers care. Specifically, the virtualization of care has heightened the need for safe and efficient electronic communication, collaboration and sharing of information across the circle of care. Continuing to improve Canada’s health system will necessitate work in interoperability: the ability for information to flow seamlessly between different health systems and solutions. 

The National Interoperability Effort 

Increasing use of digital health tools has created renewed impetus to address key interoperability challenges to enable better coordination and continuity of care. In support of the provinces and territories, Infoway is facilitating a national collaborative effort to advance interoperability. 

While there are many interoperability-related challenges, the following two  have been identified as priorities based on extensive consultations:

  1. Sharing of patient summaries across different solutions to support transitions of care and cross-jurisdictional patient flows
  2. Secure messaging between solutions to enable safer and more efficient collaboration across the circle of care

Infoway has been facilitating collaboration among stakeholders to begin addressing these two interoperability challenges. 

Doctor using tablet

Benefits and Impacts 

Public and private sector implementers agree on the benefit of a standard set of flexible specifications endorsed by all jurisdictions, in contrast to the current fragmented approach, which is costly and inefficient. The collaborative development of implementable interoperability standards, supported by Infoway, will add value across the health ecosystem: 

  • Participating stakeholders will help shape the approach and the resulting specifications, which — once endorsed by all jurisdictions — will become the pan-Canadian standard for cross-solution interoperability.
  • Public and private sector implementers will benefit from a standard set of flexible specifications endorsed by all jurisdictions.
  • Clinicians will benefit from improved documentation and collaboration practices, including the ability to securely electronically message providers that use a different system and facilitated sharing of patient information with colleagues. 
  • Patients will benefit from improved patient safety and more efficient transitions of care due to the facilitated flow of data across the circle of care.
  • The health system will save time and effort by collaborating on a pan-Canadian scale, as opposed to multiple jurisdictions conducting similar individual efforts concurrently. 

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