Canada has long envied the speed at which Europe embraced digital health.
Twelve years ago, I published an article on a report detailing how well ten countries (eight of them European) had integrated health information technology into the offices of primary care physicians.
It noted how in 2006, 97% of family physicians in Sweden relied on computers and used paper only when absolutely necessary and how in the Netherlands more than 90% of prescriptions were electronically generated. The article marvelled at how a national communications network in Denmark linked doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and laboratories.
At that time, one could guesstimate that fewer than 20% of Canadian physicians were using electronic medical records (EMRs), nobody was writing e-prescriptions and few if any patients had access to an electronic version of their own record.
Digital Health: Canada versus Europe
Fast forward to 2018 – Canada has come a long way and the use of EMRs is now the norm if not the standard of practice for the majority primary care doctors. But e-prescribing still only exists as a prototype and while we are talking a good game about using digital innovation to give patients more say in their own health it really is only happening in pockets. In Canada now, if you are lucky you can communicate with your doctor by e-mail but don’t count on it.
All of which is to say, I am very much looking forward to the HIMSS Europe 18 & Health 2.0 Conference in Sitges, Spain in May to see where Europe stands now with digital health. Surely, having laid the groundwork for digital health more 10 years ago, there must be a number of innovative successes and failures from which we in Canada can learn a lot.
And this is not the case of some naïve Canadian coming to unknown territory. Having had the privilege of attending a few Doctors 2.0 and You (organized by the incomparable Denise Silber) conferences in Paris over the last few years I am well aware of just what great leadership some patient advocates are demonstrating in Europe when it comes to patient engagement.
Also, having been a social media ambassador at both Canada’s own e-health conference and the gargantuan HIMSS conference in Vegas (in 2016), I am honoured and excited to be playing a similar role at Sitges this year.
My goals? Listen, take notes and live-tweet like crazy; network and learn while having esoteric conversations on topics such as the merits of tethered vs. non-tethered patient health records; share when asked some of the interesting innovative work we are doing here in Canada. Unfortunately, I do not count on being able to work much on my tan – no time, and besides having worked closely with dermatologists recently this is not something a healthy person admits to any more.