This past weekend I attended a large meeting of 'Peer' leaders sponsored by Canada Health Infoway. The meeting took place in Toronto and brought together physicians, pharmacists and nurses from across Canada in addition to individuals who are planning or leading implementations of Electronic Health Records (at the regional or health authority levels) or Electronic Medical Records (in physician practices).
Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) is an independent, not-for-profit organization whose members are Canada's 14 federal, provincial and territorial Deputy Ministers of Health. Most physicians have never heard of Infoway and until now, the organization has focused their energies on assembling the building blocks that are necessary to make the electronic health record systems possible across the country.
I have been involved with Canada Health Infoway in an advisory capacity for the last 18 months as a member of a national physician advisory panel that provides input and feedback to Infoway on projects and strategies that impact physicians. This has allowed me to gain experience and knowlege from peers across the country which I then have been able to share with colleagues in Vancouver and with systems designers and implementation specialists in Vancouver Coastal Health region. The importance of this knowledge sharing cannot be underestimated as a way to spread the word amongst colleagues and bring the needs of clinicians (the business of delivering care) and the needs of systems designers and implementers more closely in alignment.
At my table were physicians and nurses from British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and at the meeting I met colleagues from New Brunswick, Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland. We were all there to discuss how we as clinical leaders with some expertise in Information Technology and EMRs could assist our peers as they begin to select and implement EMRs in their practices or EHRs (as is the strategy in Quebec).
I would like to share a couple of particularly important taken home messages:
- Infoway made it clear that their role was to facilitate the sharing of information, the networking and providing financial support to the provinces that in turn could be used in each province to facilitate peer leadership;
- There is a significant need to communicate, connect and identify with other physicians who have shared similar experiences;
- There was a strong desire to help and to get involved in terms of assisting peers, however many did not have a clear understanding of what that meant personally and the level of commitment that was being expected. More work and facilitation is needed to nurture our leaders;
- It was clear that we are very close to the beginning of this journey rather than the end;
- Finally, it's easier to talk about wait-times or debate the benefits of a private vs. a public healthcare system than it is to discuss the benefits and challenges of IT and EMRs for the majority of physicians. As a result, the importance of the shift to an e-enabled healthcare system does not get the air time that it deserves.
If you use an EMR in your practice or are considering the purchase of an EMR for your practice or network of physicians, share your experience and tell your story. There will be a number of new opportunities to share your story with colleagues and peers through this blog. In addition, publications such as The Medical Post or National Review of Medicine as well as a range of healthcare IT publications such as Future Practice or Technology for Doctors are always keen to learn about physician experiences with practice change.
Bottom line: Was there value to the meeting in Toronto? Without a doubt. I learned a great deal, met new peers and developed new friendships. Each of those will have an impact as I assist, advise and share the success stories and hard lessons learned.
What are your experiences? Do you function as a peer leader in your practice, region or province? What characteristics do you believe are most important in terms of influencing your colleagues? To add your thoughts, click on the 'Comments' link.