Right now, just over 1,100 people across Saskatchewan who participated in a pilot project can look at their own health records online, set reminders to take medication, or see their most recent laboratory results.
The rest of the province is stuck waiting, for the time being.
“I think there’s a fairly significant appetite [for online access to health records],” said Davin Church, the vice-president of programs and technology at the Saskatchewan Crown corporation eHealth.
Saskatchewan, like several other provinces, has spent the past three years exploring ways to make electronic health records widely available.
The Citizen Health Information Portal, or CHIP, was a six-month pilot project launched in January 2016. It gave the just over 1,000 people who signed up for the project online access to personal lab results, immunization history, hospital visits, and an overall view of their health records.
For everyone else, accessing that kind of information currently involves filling out a privacy waiver and sending it to officials in Regina, along with proof of identity.
Officials say it generally takes about a week before a copy of an individual’s record is sent.
The CHIP program isn’t currently taking any new participants, but the province is keeping a wait-list for those interested.
“The wait-list is growing on a daily basis,” said Church.
Church doesn’t know exactly when a person in Saskatchewan will be able to punch in their health card number and look at their record online, but he’s looking forward to it.
“That’s part of what we’re working towards, determining when we might be able to provide this,” said Church. “We’ve had a lot of great feedback.”
Even now, Saskatchewan continues to digitize old paper health records, something Church called “an ongoing process.”
He said caregivers and family members in the CHIP project reported that instant access to their loved ones’ records made it far easier to communicate with other health care providers, especially for patients with dementia, memory loss, or other chronic conditions.
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Online access also helped those in the pilot project who travel frequently and wish to show health-care providers outside the province their medical history.
Right now, CHIP files do not show doctors’ diagnoses, but they reveal medication dispensed, laboratory results, medical imaging reports, immunization information, and information logged during hospital visits.
Church said up to 30 staff at eHealth have worked on the CHIP project over the past three years.
Its cost was shared by Canada Health Infoway, a federally funded non-profit with the goal of making electronic health records more efficient and accessible to the public.
Church said while they’re waiting for online access, most people in Saskatchewan don’t realize they can get free copies of their own health records.
“It’s a fairly limited number of individuals that make that request,” said Church. “It’s not something we see in broad numbers.”
Anyone wishing to be added to the CHIP wait-list can e-mail CHIP@ehealthsask.ca.