Study: EMRs Have Saved Canadian Health System $1.3B Since 2006

Posted on May 3, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

At our current stage of EMR implementation, the evidence is sketchy at best that EMRs are draining costs from the U.S. health system.  But our friends to the north seem to be capturing tangible savings, according to new research by Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP (PwC).

The PwC study, which was backed by the Canada Health Infoway, a not-for-profit whose focus is accelerating the development of EMRs by family physicians, looked at the implementation of EMRs by family doctors across Canada.  The study focused on the period between 2006 and 2012.

Adoption of EMRs by primary care doctors in Canada has more than doubled between 2006 and 2012, from 23 percent to 56 percent, Healthcare Informatics reports. These EMR investments were paid for largely through investments by the provinces and territories in EMR programs, medical practices and  Infoway.

According to Healthcare Informatics, PwC found that during that period, the Canadian system saved $800 million Canadian dollars in administrative efficiencies, such as staff spending less time pulling charts and less time by doctors reading and maintaining paper files.

PwC also found savings of $584 million Canadian dollars in health system efficiencies, such a drop in duplicated diagnostic testing and adverse drug events.

In addition to concrete financial savings, EMR adoption improved chronic disease management and preventive care, such as mammogram screening rates.  EMR use also improved communication between care providers, as EMRs allowed new providers to quickly and easily research histories on patients without resorting to archaic fax communications.

As part of PwC’s research, they cited examples which paint the picture of how EMRs are changing healthcare in Canada.

Since implementing EMRs, PwC notes, 67 percent of Saskatchewan’s family doctors, office managers and specialists say that their medical practices are more or significantly more productive than before.  Also, 94 percent of of doctors enrolled in Alberta’s EMR program said that patients get their test results faster; in addition, 97 percent said that they’re not needlessly repeating tests and investigations.