Jean Yves Duclos and Carolyn Bennett

Digital health key to improving access to health care information

eAwaz Health

Ottawa – Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, and Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, issued the following statement in recognition of Digital Health Week:

More than ever before, digital technologies are integral to improving the health and well-being of Canadians. Digital health is key to improving access to health care information, including allowing Canadians to easily access their own electronic health records. At the same time, digital health tools allow health providers to better connect with each other in delivering care which facilitates more timely diagnoses and treatments, as well as improves virtual access to care for patients at home, particularly for those living in rural and remote communities Improving the ability to collect, access and share timely and comparable data will save lives.

Better connected data also ensures that we have the information we need to improve the health system. Part of our work ahead involves making sure different digital systems across the country are compatible and can share health data (i.e., they can talk to each other). Ongoing work on developing a Pan-Canadian Health Data Strategy and common standards for the exchange of health data is so important. We hope the future of health care and public health will see timely and high-quality services going hand in hand with equitable access to virtual care and digital health tools, received when and where Canadians need them.

To that end, we introduced Wellness Together Canada (WTC) portal which offers free, virtual mental health and substance use resources and supports to Canadians. Canadians have come to know they can rely on WTC for free access to mental health and substance use resources and supports, including one-on-one virtual counselling services available 24/7. To date, nearly 3 million individuals across Canada have accessed critical supports through WTC.

Our Government recognizes the importance of mental wellness as an indicator of good health. In response to this, we are collecting data on bullying and cyberbullying to inform policy development and interventions through the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey. In addition, to prevent bullying and cyberbullying, and mitigate its negative impact on children, youth, and their families, we provided $3 million in October 2022 in funding towards the Kids Help Phone to support the mental wellness of young people from Indigenous, Black, newcomer, and underserved communities across Canada, including those in rural and remote regions.

Additionally, our Government is committing to work in partnership with provinces and territories to accelerate the use of virtual care across Canada. In 2020, the government committed $240.5 M to accelerate the use of virtual tools and digital approaches, and between January 2021 and March 2022, 33% of patient-reported visits were virtual with a 90% satisfaction rate. We are also pleased to see the PrescribeIT program now includes over 6,000 pharmacies, allowing prescriptions to be electronically sent to a pharmacy for convenient pickup and less risk.

We are striving to help Canadians have access to their own data so they can easily navigate the health system, all while providing information on how their health systems are performing. We are also committed to continue our work with provinces and territories to ensure that our health care system is underpinned by health data and digital health that will support health care system improvements and better health outcomes for the benefit of all people in Canada. Jean-Yves Duclos, and Carolyn Bennett