Latest Thinking

Leveraging technology to enhance healthcare in first nation communities

April 21, 2017

At TELUS Health, we believe more effective and efficient healthcare delivery is about harnessing the powerful benefits, technology can offer. Despite the leaps and bounds made to revitalize Canada’s healthcare system, sadly, the fact remains that all Canadians still do not enjoy the same equal access to care and health services.  This was an issue that the Wikwemikong First Nations community, in Northeastern Ontario had been coping with for decades.

For the leaders of the Wikwemikong First Nations community, to improve the health and well-being of their First Nations members, something had to change. More than a decade ago, they embarked on a journey to digitalize health information and enhance collaboration.

Three weeks ago, the TELUS Health team had the privilege of watching an important project come to life: the implementation of an electronic medical records (EMR) system in Wikwemikong Health Centre.

Here’s how it all began…


The genesis of our collaboration

The Wikwemikong population receives much of its health services from the Wikwemikong Health Centre. The center employs approximately 60 medical and administrative professionals. Delivering broad health and wellness programming to members of its community, the Centre had been facing numerous challenges for quite some time.

They were working largely off paper and did not have consolidated charts for patients. Continuity of care can, at times, be challenging in a place where healthcare providers can be somewhat transient. The Center saw an opportunity to transform the way patient care was delivered by enabling care teams to access and share critical and confidential patient information. The implementation of electronic medical records  –  a “one patient, one record” vision –  came as the perfect platform to bring a sustainable solution to these challenges and ultimately, helping drive better health outcomes for the community members.

The project started in 2006 but it was following TELUS Health’s acquisition of Nightingale in 2016 that our team started working tirelessly to bring their vison to fruition by transforming these discussions into actions and by collaborating with one of their partners, Giiwednong Health Link (GHL).


The “Go-live” Launch

On March 7th, the EMR launch happened as part of an extensive “Go-live” event. The whole community gathered at the Wikwemikong Health Centre for this event, including an Elder and the Chief of the Wikwemikong First Nation, the Centre leadership and visiting Centre directors from across the region, the head of the North Eastern FHT, members of GHL and representatives of the Manitoulin Island media.

The excitement about the positive impact digital technologies will have in the Wikwemikong community and surrounding groups was palpable. The celebrations were marked by a musical performance from an indigenous drum group and speeches from the Centre leadership and the Chief of the First Nation. We could truly sense that the implementation of TELUS Health EMR software in the Wikwemikong community was one step further towards a major change made possible, amongst other things, with better and confidential access to information and technology.


Our Involvement with First Nations

We do not always have the privilege of witnessing the impact our technologies have in the daily lives of the people we implement them for. Watching a community delighted and grateful by a new way of delivering care was truly rewarding for the entire team. We are blessed to have developed strong relationships with the GHL leadership and are very much looking forward to our continued collaboration as they look to extend the project to other First Nation communities.

In a context where health information is deeply important to healthcare, the ability to communicate in real time with others around the care of a patient enables the delivery of more equitable and efficient care to Canadians. From consistency of patient information and accuracy, confidentiality to improved communication and convenience, technology enables more productive and satisfying interactions for both patients and healthcare providers, and we are more than ever dedicated to being a change agent for the improvement of healthcare across First Nation communities and Canada.

The benefits of electronic medical records and record-keeping are giving the residents of the Wikwemikong First Nations community, peace of mind and a real-time glimpse into the digital future of healthcare.

Learn more about the Wikwemikong Health Center