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Digital environment high priority for PTMA leaders

The electronic environment within which Canadian physicians are increasingly practising is a high-priority topic for leaders of the provincial and territorial medical associations (PTMAs), a recent meeting revealed.

At the Presidents Forum held at the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) in November, PTMA presidents and CEOs repeatedly referenced the status of electronic medical record (EMR) programs in their jurisdictions, as well as voicing concerns about the advent of ‘big data’— the electronic quantification of patient health data for purposes beyond direct patient care.

Of particular interest to those attending the meeting was information from jurisdictions such as Prince Edward Island, where ‘one patient, one chart’ initiatives are being rolled out to ensure residents have a single electronic medical record for both hospital and community-based care. Also shared was the attempt by some PTMAs that do not already have well-established EMR programs in place to institute programs that would mandate one vendor for all physicians in their jurisdiction.

Asked whether ‘big data’ in health is emerging as a concern for their association or members, representatives from some provinces (such as Alberta) noted they already have a comprehensive framework in place to protect the privacy of patient data. Others (such as Ontario) are moving to take the initiative and ensure the medical association itself spearheads any big data plans.

The Presidents Forum is held twice annually in Ottawa, to allow PTMA leaders to gather in a “no surprises” environment. Held under the auspices of the CMA, the meetings are governed by a Medical Association Accord that was signed in 2007 and continues to be endorsed by all PTMAs.

At the meeting, PTMA presidents expressed ongoing support for the forum as a place to exchange information and network with colleagues from other jurisdictions.

Not surprisingly, details of the status of fee negotiations in various jurisdictions were of great interest at the meeting. Most PTMAs are at some stage in ongoing talks with their provincial or territorial government. A new deal negotiated by the Doctors of BC, currently being voted on by the province’s physicians, was noted and widely discussed.

Another common theme that emerged was the restructuring of local or regional health authorities in many jurisdictions, including Quebec, Alberta and Nova Scotia.

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