Infoway’s peer networks focus on advanced e-health

By Rosie Lombardi

Maureen CharleboisInfoway recently announced new funding to develop next-generation Clinical Peer Leader Networks. The networks will help healthcare professionals set up and use advanced clinical e-functions and patient e-services to improve care. OntarioMD and the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) are officially on board with more to follow. In this Q&A with Maureen Charlebois (pictured), a group director at Canada Health Infoway, she explains the goals of the new funding and how doctors can access it.

Q: What are the key goals of this next wave of clinical peer networks and how do they differ from the goals of the previous program?

A: The goal of this network is to build upon a successful program that we’ve been leading for the last several years. The focus now is on advanced clinical use and optimization of technology in practice and to support clinicians in using the advanced functions, and their patients using online services.

Q: What issues are these networks meant to address?

A: In a survey of our clinicians, 96% of peer leaders said that they positively influenced their colleagues in using technology. The focus really needs to be on advanced functions such as using e-integrated care plans where the patient is in the centre of care. Five key benefit areas were identified and why they were needed; it was focused around decision support and work flow, to have the ability to electronically communicate and collaborate with other members of the team. To have timely access to information and to use that information to improve practice, to look to quality improvement and education. And to decrease the burden of care for the patient so they don’t have to go through repeat tests or tell-their-story again. Now we have that access to the information and that can only be enabled through knowledge-based tools as opposed to just basic billing and use of technology.

Q: How are these new peer networks organized and what kind of funding has been allocated to them?

A: They’re being organized at a provincial jurisdictional level, they are then aligned to that jurisdiction’s provincial key initiative. The learnings and the outcomes from those jurisdictional peer networks are then shared with the more pan-Canadian peer network. We’re fostering a broad, national peer network where our clinicians can come together to share those best practices and build new knowledge and to connect and link one another from across Canada to facilitate that learning. We provide 75% of the funding needed for this, and the jurisdiction covers the other 25%. What’s important to note here is the funding we provide supports the people side. It’s to support the clinicians to coach, mentor and teach their colleagues in using technology. This is very different from other Infoway investments that go to the technology side.

Q: How can doctors avail themselves of this service? What do they need to do?

A: They can definitely link locally to their own jurisdiction. For example, in Ontario, they can link to OntarioMD. They can also contact us at Canada Health Infoway at the clinical adoption e-mail we provide on our website. We try to provide access to anyone who wants to belong to the network. It’s easy. You can just point them to the site and there are lots of connections there.

Q: What kind of participation from doctors are you expecting?

A: The goal is to one day have all of the clinicians involved. To have the majority would certainly provide a tipping point to get universal adoption. We have really seen it evolve over time. When we first started this a number of years ago, we had a handful of clinicians that came together because they were keen to be e-health champions. Now we have thousands of clinicians that are connected or linked across Canada. It really is growing and that’s the intent in that network. One-on-one, one-to-many, many-to-many.

For more information, visit