Infoway's work with the clinical community: let us count the ways

Achieving value for clinicians and patients is key to Infoway’s mandate. The active involvement of a broad range of clinicians in our activities, and in the projects that we invest in, is essential to our success.

A couple of people have asked questions recently about what we’re doing to engage clinicians and patients so I thought that I’d share some examples of our recent activities through this blog.

Our commitment starts at a governance level. Infoway’s Board of Directors recently approved an updated clinical and patient engagement strategy, and practicing clinicians have served on the Board for several years. The latest to join is Dr. Anne Doig, who was elected to the Infoway Board in mid-2010. 

Linking with clinical leaders and patient representatives is a key aspect of this strategy. For example, we are in regular contact with representatives of national and provincial/territorial associations of health professionals, educators, and patients. We also have standing physician, nursing, and pharmacy reference groups which bring together clinical leaders from across the country. Members provide us with valued advice based on their diverse expertise and experience. For example, many participated in our recent “Blueprint 2015” visioning process, helping to shape our future directions, and provided advice on priorities for our new innovation program.

We’ve also funded clinical peer networks across the country. These networks have already involved more than 200 clinician leaders, and their activities have reached about 3,500 of their colleagues across the country. In the last few months, I’ve talked to a number of those involved in peer networks and I’m always impressed by their knowledge and willingness to share their experiences with their colleagues. The online forums also offer a way for participants in the networks to share resources and learnings.

Reflecting the importance that we attach to this activity, we’ve recently committed to a second round of peer network funding as the initial investments come to an end. Watch for announcements about these networks shortly, as well as new investments focused on the needs of clinicians in training, with the aim of working with partners to ensure that they are ready to practice in a technology-enabled environment when they graduate.

It’s also important that we ensure a strong clinical and patient voice within our various investment programs. For example, we’ve recruited clinical leaders to participate in our work on standards, telepathology, consent directives, and e-prescribing. We also get great advice from clinicians and patients who are leading efforts to improve care across the country, such as through recent forums on synoptic reporting for cancer surgery, medication reconciliation and safety, and more.

Drug Information Systems Benefits Evaluation ReportOur programs have also been informed by broad surveys of clinicians and focus groups with direct care providers. For instance, we conducted a national survey of pharmacists, in collaboration with the Canadian Pharmacists’ Association, which was a key input for the benefits evaluation study that we commissioned and published on Generation 2 Drug Information Systems. A similar study on telehealth is well underway.

We also conducted national focus groups and 1-1 interviews with nurses in clinical practice, education and executive positions across the country to gain insights into the attitudes and behaviours of nurses regarding electronic health records and the value proposition.

Understanding the range of perspectives held by individual Canadians is also critically important. Last year,  we sought their advice through focus groups, surveys, and other means to shape the Knowing is better public education campaign that was launched in the fall and to set priorities for our consumer health investments.

So … lots is happening – and we’ll provide updates on these and other activities as milestones are reached – but there is also much more to do. Coming soon, for instance, will be a set of innovation challenges that we hope will broadly engage clinicians and Canadians in helping to find ways to accelerate gains in health care quality, access, and productivity through the use of information and communications technologies. More soon!

About Jennifer Zelmer

Jennifer’s expertise as a senior strategist in health and health system improvement is instrumental in her role as Executive Vice President, leading Infoway's clinical adoption, innovation and consumer health initiatives.
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0 Responses to Infoway's work with the clinical community: let us count the ways

  1. Jennifer,
    Thanks for the update on Infoway’s various activities related to clinician and patient engagement. I do have have a couple of questions:

    – Where can I find a copy of the clinician and patient engagement strategy? I’d like to write about it on my blog.

    – What vehicles are in place for patients to provide their input? You note that you have solicited patient input through forums on synoptic reporting for cancer surgery and medication reconciliation and safety. How are patients recruited for these and other forums? How can patients interested in offering their input indicate their interest in doing so?

    Once again, thanks for contributing to the Infoway blog. I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the various activities that you lead and to hearing your views on how we accelerate adoption and use of various eHealth technologies.

    Michael Martineau

    • Jennifer Zelmer says:

      Dear Michael,

      Thanks for your interest in our clinician and patient engagement strategy. I’ll follow-up with you by email to get you the information that you’re looking for.

      In terms of our specific approach of engaging individual Canadians, we have started down this path and are evolving our approach based on our on-going experiences and the feedback that we are getting about what approaches work best for everyone concerned. There are a variety of ways in which we’re seeking advice and involvement.

      One method that we’ve used extensively (e.g. in terms of informing our work on the Knowing Is Better public education campaign, privacy and confidentiality, and consumer health solutions) is surveys and focus groups with members of the public. This has proven very helpful for understanding the views of a cross-section of Canadians from different parts of the country and different walks of life.

      We also connect regularly with associations and groups that have a related role or mandate. For example, two of our senior employees – Shelagh Maloney and Brent McGaw — were at the launch of the Patients Association of Canada last week. In addition, we have upcoming webinars to meet with national organizations (e.g. those focused on particular health conditions) to discuss Infoway’s new investment programs.

      And it’s important to recognize that Infoway works in collaboration with provinces and territories to implement EHRs – so we’re not the only party consulting Canadians about how EHR systems are developed, used, etc.

      We’re also exploring other ways of strengthening our connections with patient groups – more on this soon!

  2. Karen Krisfalusi says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    That synopsis is wonderful. Yet I am so disheartened to realize that direct citizen access to EMRs is an afterthought for Infoway. You folks really, really need to include citizens as key stakeholders. And I’m not talking about those ‘astro-turfing’ patient representatives. I’m not talking about any patient representatives. Why does Infoway engage directly with clinicians but not with health record owners. Even you describe the citizen stakeholder as ‘a patient’. This word is loaded with historical literary association. Yet we are not patient anymore! And we want user our EMRs to manage our health as much as our disease.



    • Jennifer Zelmer says:

      Hi Karen,

      I’m glad that you found the summary helpful. I’m disconcerted, though, that our commitment to putting Canadians at the centre of our activities didn’t come through to you in my blog post. To be clear, we are committed to engaging directly with, and seeking to respond to, both groups of patients (who typically use the term “patient” in reference to their work*) and individual Canadians.
      On the latter, we have undertaken surveys, focus groups, and use other means to seek to understand the range of perspectives that exist across the country, rural and urban, young and old. Results from this work have been key drivers informing our approach to privacy issues and technologies, our recent Knowing Is Better campaign, and our plans for investments in consumer health solutions, for example. With regards to the latter, I couldn’t agree with you more that it’s not just about managing disease! Interestingly, the key areas that Canadians prioritized in the public views work that we did this fall were the ability to schedule appointments, communicate with health care providers, request prescription renewal, and access key information from one’s health record (e.g. lab test results). These priorities were quite consistent across the country, among those who did/did not have chronic conditions, and on some other demographic dimensions.

      Hope that this helps, Jennifer

      * On the question of terminology, there is, as you probably know, an on-going debate about what the best terms to use are, with strongly held views from multiple perspectives. There are advocates for the use of “citizens”, “consumers”, “clients”, and “patients”, among others. I was an observer a while ago in qualitative research study where a sample of Canadians was asked about their preferences. The bulk favoured the term “patients”, but clearly this is not a universally held point of view. I personally tend to favour “Canadians” when it’s applicable, but it isn’t always.

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