Canada’s doctors behind in digital collaboration: survey
June 14, 2023
OTTAWA – An international survey shows that Canadian primary care physicians have closed the gap between Canada and other countries in using electronic medical records (EMRs) in their practices. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to increased workload among practitioners both in Canada and internationally.
The Canadian results of the Commonwealth Fund (CMWF) 2022 International Health Policy Survey of Primary Care Physicians, released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), show that:
- 93% of Canadian primary care physicians are using EMRs in their practice, which is the same as the CMWF average
- The majority (77%) of family doctors in Canada said their workload has increased, in line with the CMWF average (76%)
- More than half (57%) of Canadian family doctors reported that they are not satisfied with the amount of time they spend on administrative tasks, since it reduces their availability for patients
The survey also found that there are issues with coordinating care between family doctors and specialists across the countries surveyed. Although 89% of Canada’s family doctors send patient information to specialists, only about half receive information back on changes to patient care plans and medication, and less than 20% receive a report with results of the specialist visit within a week of the visit (similar to the CMWF average).
About half (49%) of family doctors in Canada reported that coordinating referrals with specialists is a major problem, while the CMWF average sits at 33%.
Family health teams – composed of nurses (including nurse practitioners), case managers and others – can assist with coordination of care, as well as ease physician workload. 52% of Canadian family doctors work with other healthcare professionals in their practice, such as nurses or case managers, to monitor and manage care for patients with chronic conditions who need regular follow-up care, lower than the CMWF average of 65%.
While Canada has made substantial improvements in the electronic sharing of information with other health care providers, the country is still on a path to realizing the full benefits of implementing EMRs:
- Fewer than half (38%) of family doctors in Canada can exchange patient care summaries (CMWF average: 67%)
- Just over half (55%) of family doctors can exchange lab and diagnostic test results (CMWF average: 72%)
- About half (51%) can exchange a list of all medications taken by a patient (CMWF average: 68%)
“Family doctors play a crucial role in Canada’s healthcare systems, and this year’s Commonwealth Fund survey reveals the strain felt by Canadian practitioners as a result of the pandemic. The new findings emphasize the opportunities that come from working with multidisciplinary care teams and taking full advantage of EMRs. International comparisons provide an important perspective and a great opportunity to learn from other countries’ policies and practices so that we can continue to strengthen the primary health care system in Canada,” said Tracy Johnson (pictured), director, Health System Analytics, Canadian Institute for Health Information.
About the Commonwealth Fund
Based in the United States, the Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that aims to promote a high-performing healthcare system that achieves better access, improved quality and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable populations. The Commonwealth Fund’s 2022 survey compares the experiences of family doctors in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. It covers a variety of topics, including access to care, use of information technology and virtual care, coordination of care with other care providers, care management, and physicians’ experiences with their practice and satisfaction. It provides important perspectives on the state of primary healthcare in Canada and where improvements still need to be made. The survey took place from February to September 2022.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing essential health information to all Canadians. CIHI works closely with federal, provincial and territorial partners and stakeholders throughout Canada to gather, package and disseminate information to inform policy, management, care and research, leading to better and more equitable health outcomes for all Canadians. Health information has become one of society’s most valuable public goods. For more than 25 years, CIHI has set the pace on data privacy, security, accessibility and innovation to improve Canada’s health systems.