Latest Thinking

How new physicians use technology to shape care

November 26, 2018

Imagine a sudden recall of a widely-used blood pressure medication. As a physician, how would you determine how many of your patients are affected and which ones? Would it mean sorting through mountains of patient files or trying to remember who had that specific prescription?

When this very thing happened last summer, Ottawa primary care physician Dr. Kevin Brophy used his clinic’s electronic medical record (EMR) to proactively identify and communicate with his patients, assuaging fears and providing in-the-moment information remotely.

At 33, Dr. Brophy entered practice along with the new wave of digital natives, all of whom were raised with technology in both their personal and academic lives.

“Growing up my father worked in IT, and we had a computer for as long as I can remember,” he says. “Back then, it was all about video games, then doing homework, then communicating with friends. So, when it came to medicine, I never asked myself, ‘Will I use technology?’ Instead, it’s always been about ‘How will I use it?’” he explains.

Naturally, he used digital tools from the outset, especially online electronic properties and new communications platforms. “Before starting my own practice, I worked in emergency and walk-in clinics that still relied heavily on paper files and handwritten notes,” he recalls.

“I knew that when I established my practice, right from the beginning, it would be with an EMRs and I needed it to give me a complete picture of my patients, helping ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Mobile functionality means I have access wherever I go.”

Along with EMRs, Dr. Brophy also depends on a custom website to post health information for patients and another to collaborate with physicians. Plus, he uses an email portal to share test results and fact sheets on conditions and treatments securely with his patients.

Today, these young doctors not only expect technological solutions, they lead adoption to reshape the way care is delivered. To them, technology promises efficiency, a comprehensive view into patients’ medical histories and, most importantly, enhanced care. And they’re just getting started.

“Technology shouldn’t be aspirational at this point – for me, it’s a necessity,” notes private practice clinician and former educator, Dr. David Harrison. “I’m in my 40s, so I was right on the cusp of doctors that grew up with tech. Still, as far as we’ve come, there’s remains a huge evolutionary opportunity. We’ll unlock it by embracing fresh approaches and collaborating.”

Dr. Harrison’s fully-integrated practice in Victoria, BC, uses a web-based EMR from TELUS Health that is also accessible by mobile devices, which gives him unprecedented insight into his patients’ histories and ensures they follow check up and vaccine schedules. The system adapts to his preferences and workstyle in real-time and allows him to communicate with patients and other specialists. Dr. Harrison also acts as a peer mentor for Med Access in Victoria, assisting physicians to get the most out of their EMR experience.

More and more doctors use these types of resources. Looking forward, this trend toward digital use will continue with provincial adoption of personal health records (PHRs), which empower patients to play a more active role in their own care by having their health information wherever they go and connecting them directly with their care team.

Similarly, both doctors plan to implement e-bookings into their practice, which will simultaneously allow patients to manage their care needs while freeing physicians and administrators to focus on the nuances of day-to-day practice.

“The possibilities are incredible. With emerging technology, patients and doctors will be able to work together to provide the best-ever care,” says Dr. Harrison. “Today, when doctors enter practice, they’re already armed with digital solutions. It’s an exciting time.”