Latest Thinking

Dashboards: unlocking data’s full potential to elevate Canada’s health care system

July 11, 2018

When reading the headlines for telemedicine and telehealth news, it’s almost impossible not to notice what an exciting time it is for medicine. From AI and blockchain, to electronic medical records and wearable devices, the advances are endless.

Beyond this, with effervescence comes some growing pains. Roughly 4.5 million Canadians still remain without a family doctor.[1] Referrals to specialists often take months to get an appointment. Elective surgeries can result in years of waiting time. Through all of this, wait times in the emergency room have reached an all-time high at 4.4 hours on average nationally.[2],[3]  Our health system has generally failed to adapt to the aging demographic shift and to the emergence of new chronic disease management patterns. Today, chronic illnesses characterize most of the Canadian medical landscape, with the latest 2017 data showing that 1 in 5 Canadian adults live with either asthma, diabetes, hypertension or cancer.[4]

Managing these diseases keeps our hospitals constantly busy. Though preventive interventions and high-quality treatment plans can stabilize chronic illnesses and allow them to be monitored at home, only a minority of patients take all the measures to set themselves up for success such as taking their medications as prescribed, making the right lifestyle changes and following up with their doctors regularly.[5],[6] Sooner or later, this requires hospitalization and generates costs that could have otherwise been avoided.

EMRs bring solutions to the health system

Currently, up to 50% of provincial budgets go towards healthcare.[7] Part of the issue is that valuable healthcare information resides in different systems and with different providers, often in silos. While electronic medical records (EMRs) have facilitated the gathering of patient information into one system, much of the data remains unused. An EMR is a digital patient record that provides the patient’s history of visits, illnesses, diagnoses, and previous and current medications. It is accessible from anywhere and features robust data parameters. EMRs already enable the sharing of single-source information access between the patient’s family doctor and specialists. It also greatly simplifies the complex process of verifying drug interactions by doing this automatically.

Until recently, an overview of the statistics amongst patients was missing, limiting a physician’s ability to adjust current strategies and optimize benefits for better lasting results. By aggregating analytics into EMR data, clinicians and administrators can gain access to visualization tools, clinical content, as well as consulting and training services. And that’s exactly what TELUS Health has committed to bringing to life for the direct benefit of patients and health care professionals.

Enter TELUS Health’s Outcomes Dashboard

The Outcomes Dashboard is an added feature offered to TELUS Health EMR users that helps measure and improve data quality by combining statistics about a given clinic or hospital and patient data into easy-to-read graphics.

In a physician’s busy schedule, every minute counts. Adding a dashboard to EMRs allows physicians to monitor trends and compare their indicator metrics with others who are using the dashboards so they can proactively take action and engage with them. In the case of chronic diseases, this helps to implement preventive actions sooner to minimize complications down the road. This also enables physicians to reach out for follow-ups and ensure the patient’s treatment is on track.

Dashboards are funded by sponsors such as provincial organizations, health authorities, regional groups and research groups: they cover the program cost and licence fees for the physicians. Sponsors benefit as they provide clinicians with guideline-based tools, as well as insights on what programs are the most effective.

As the patient is at the centre of dashboard initiatives, it enables physicians to proactively engage and take action with patients, who are empowered to partner and take control of their own health. Through deeper patient involvement, we are redesigning the system around patients, instead of focusing solely on medical entities. With prevention and self-care, we can mitigate the risks associated with many medical conditions as the dashboards offer visibility into the full picture.

Our Ultimate Goal

At the end of May, Dr. Darren Larsen, OntarioMD’s Chief Medical Officer took the stage at the E-Health Conference & Tradeshow in Vancouver, BC, where he made the case for dashboards to be integrated into EMR systems in front of a crowd of digital health leaders. Recognized by his peers as a champion of EMRs in Ontario, Dr. Larsen reinforced how much of the data generated remains unused in analytics. With dashboards, this reality can change to benefit the physician, patient and the community.

At TELUS Health, we remain focused on ensuring a seamless flow of information for Canadians to make better informed decision. We believe that through the implementation of an Outcomes Dashboard, we can move one step closer to disease prevention before remediation, thanks to the power of technology.


To see Dr. Darren Larsen’s conference speech (video courtesy of Ontario MD), click here: