How Research is Addressing Potential Challenges and Benefits of Electronic Health Record Use in Saskatchewan
With the recent launch of the provincial electronic health record (EHR) portal, patients across Saskatchewan may be wondering what this means for them or how they can access this information. Those are precisely the questions and kinds of supports researcher Dr. Tracie Risling, Associate Professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan, and her team have been investigating through her patient-oriented research funded by Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) and the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR).
The digital age is here and this access to our health data brings with it the potential for improved patient empowerment, engagement, activation and, in many cases, better health outcomes. It also brings a new challenge of providing equitable opportunities to engage with this technology. In order to equalize this opportunity, Risling and her team are working with patients from a number of different organizations to collaboratively decide how best to support the uptake and use of EHRs in their communities.
“Saskatchewan patients need more information in order to truly be proactive health care collaborators,” says Risling. “This research serves as an opportunity to increase awareness among many Saskatchewan patients about the potential benefits of EHR access in their own health management. It also allows for a comprehensive exploration of potential barriers and will identify how patients themselves can partner in addressing these challenges.”
Through these consultations, the groups will help identify potential barriers, minimize risks of a digital divide, and creating opportunities for ongoing interventions to promote awareness of portals or advance general digital health literacy skills. Once supports are identified, the research team will work with each diverse group to put these in place as well as collaborate on, and evaluate, outcomes that are most important to patients when it comes to EHR use.
“The interventions and EHR supports that are developed, and the planned evaluation not only of these tools, but of the value of this data access for Saskatchewan patients will be a significant addition to the advancement of this technology across Canada and will support Saskatchewan as a leader in this coming national initiative,” says Risling.
The research team is using a Plan-Do-Study-Act method to guide this work maximizing opportunities for co-design, evaluation and partnered participation at every stage of the study. Canadian research has begun to show significant benefits related to the use of EHRs including time and cost savings for patients, more engaged care experiences, and efficiencies that improve the health system overall. The voices of patients, as end-users of EHRs, are essential to direct the ongoing development and use of this technology, and to make sure that in this digital health evolution, no patient is left behind.