Slow uptake among doctors for tool that gives patients test results online

Slow uptake among doctors for tool that gives patients test results online

The number of doctors signing on to a new electronic patient-management program is on the rise, but it's well behind where the provincial health department hoped it would be by now.

MyHealthNS is a digital tool launched last summer that allows patients to receive test results, schedule appointments and ask their doctor basic questions electronically.

Thirty-five doctors and 6,000 patients participated in a three-year pilot project before it was rolled out in the province's central health zone in July. Since then, the numbers are up to 150 doctors and about 8,000 patients, well short of the 365 doctors the department hoped to have signed up by now.

Waiting for feedback

Chris Faulkner, project manager for MyHealthNS with the health department, said it takes time to get doctors to make the change. Recruitment efforts really stepped up in October.

"I think there are some physicians, no doubt, who want to hear how it's going with others and are in a bit of a wait-and-see mode on that."

Dr. Ajantha Jayabarathan was an early convert to the system. About 900 of her 1,400 patients are using the system. She said her Halifax clinic showed an increase in capacity of 22 per cent when she starting using MyHealth.

Payment details unsettled

The challenge for her is right now she and others aren't being paid to see those patients because there isn't a compensation mechanism unless treatment is by phone or in person.

"If they just paid me for two hours a day to use [MyHealth], I could look after about 50 people and I didn't have to bring them into my office."

A spokesperson for Doctors Nova Scotia said they have no indication from the province yet of when fees will be set for physicians using the electronic system.

'Pent-up demand'

Meanwhile, the program became available province-wide last week. Faulkner expects that to provide a boost in sign-up numbers.

"We're anticipating some pent-up demand in the rest of the province by both physicians and patients."

Faulkner said results so far show patients using the system are more engaged in their own health care and it allows them to be better prepared ahead of an office visit.

"What we hear is it makes for more informed conversation."

It's positive outcomes such as those that make Jayabarathan a believer in the system — and why she believes it's something deserving of more investment.