The federal government confirmed $500 million more in funding Wednesday to support electronic health records, a move announced last month in its budget. 

An electronic health record system "will save time and lives by reducing duplication, improving the management of chronic disease, improving access to care and boosting productivity," Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Wednesday.

The technology gives health-care providers a more complete picture of their patient's health history to improve care, Health Canada said.

It's hoped that electronic health records will:

  • Reduce wait times by speeding the flow of information through the system.
  • Eliminate duplicate or unnecessary tests.
  • Reduce medication errors and remind health-care providers of necessary tests or vaccinations through automated alerts and reminders.

The $500-million funding announcement is in addition to $400 million that the federal government pledged to Canada Health Infoway in the 2007 budget, raising Ottawa's commitment to $2.1 billion.

Canada Health Infoway is a non-profit organization established in 2001 to work with governments and health-care providers to expand the use of electronic health records, telehealth and public-health surveillance systems across the country.

"In addition to benefiting the health system, electronic health records are also reducing operating costs and stimulating the economy by creating thousands of jobs," said Richard Alvarez, CEO of Canada Health Infoway.

On Tuesday, the Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada said many Canadians living with cancer have yet to benefit from advances in technology such as electronic health records, especially those living in remote communities that need them the most.

Of 11 oncology clinics the group surveyed across the country, seven had access to an integrated electronic health record system that linked them to other centres offering treatment and care, the group said in its annual report card.

The group represents cancer organizations, doctors and patients, and is sponsored by private donations, drug companies and insurance companies.