Doctors' buy-in to MyHealthNS could hinge on compensation
Doctors Nova Scotia and province hope to have long-term arrangement in place by early 2017
About 20 doctors have signaled plans to sign on for a new electronic patient-management program but further growth could be limited until compensation plans are finalized.
Last month, the province launched MyHealthNS. The digital program allows patients to track test results, schedule appointments, update their medical history and ask their doctors questions.
A three-year pilot project with 35 doctors and 6,000 patients produced glowing results. The program is now available to doctors and patients in the province's central health zone and will be available to everyone in early 2017.
Marketing strategy in the works
Chris Faulkner, project manager for MyHealthNS with the Health Department, said the goal is to get 365 family doctors signed on by next March and 80 per cent of all family doctors in the province within five years.
He said the department, provincial health authority and Doctors Nova Scotia are working on a marketing strategy to get more doctors signed up. Besides the doctors from the pilot, 10 more have agreed to sign on and another 10 have indicated an interest.
"One month in it's been whoever has put their hand up to participate is who we've been reaching back out to. But now we're starting to have those discussions over the next few weeks around how to get this message out more strongly and what avenues to use to do the recruitment."
Getting buy-in right now could be difficult because a long-term compensation plan for serving patients through MyHealthNS hasn't been finalized yet.
Kevin Chapman, director of partnerships and strategy for Doctors Nova Scotia, said some doctors are likely taking a wait-and-see approach.
Chapman said it isn't that doctors are looking to make extra money from the program. Rather, they want to ensure they're compensated for seeing patients without them actually coming into the office.
"You're seeing patients and you're seeing them electronically, but our fee schedule doesn't support that, necessarily."
Pilot-project doctors spreading the word
During the pilot project, participating doctors would have lost money for treating patients through MyHealthNS. A stipend was used to compensate doctors during that time, but now a long-term plan is required. (Some money has been set aside in the interim for early converts.)
Faulkner said the province hopes to finalized an agreement with Doctors Nova Scotia by early next year. He and Chapman both said they're hearing good support from doctors.
"Physicians have gravitated toward technology in their office," said Chapman.
Chapman said the doctors who participated in the pilot have been a good source of information for other physicians and have helped spread the word about the program's benefits.