Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's trendsetting patient system slow to catch on with docs

Nova Scotia is a national trendsetter with its electronic patient management system, but doctors have been slow to register for MyHealthNS.

Since its launch in July, just 60 physicians are registered for MyHealthNS

Chris Faulkner is project manager for MyHealthNS. (CBC)

Nova Scotia is considered a national trendsetter with its electronic patient management system, but just two dozen doctors have signed up for MyHealthNS since its launch last summer.

MyHealthNS is a program that allows patients to update their medical histories, receive test results, book appointments and ask simple questions of their doctors. It was launched at the end of July following a three-year pilot project with 35 family doctors and 6,000 patients.

During the launch, officials touted the program as the first of its kind in Canada.

While the program won't become available provincewide until early 2017, the most recent numbers show 25 additional doctors have registered, bringing the total to 60, and about 7,000 patients are signed up.

Chris Faulkner, the project manager, said it's early days for the program and another 190 doctors are "in various states of conversation" about whether to get on board.

Awareness campaign starting to ramp up

Faulkner downplayed the slow uptake.

"The first couple of months was just getting the message out to physicians and really the strong messages started coming out in October," he said.

He has previously said the goal is to get 365 family doctors signed up by the end of March and 80 per cent of all family doctors within five years. There is a $2,000 stipend being offered to any doctors who register before the end of March.

Faulkner said program requires training time and adjustments to workflow for doctors, and the $2,000 is "meant to bridge that change for them."

Dr. Trixie Gregorie is one of the approximately 60 doctors in the province registered to use the electronic patient-management system MyHealthNS. (CBC)

Dr. Trixie Gregorie was one of the doctors involved in the pilot project. She said MyHealthNS lets her do paperwork when she needs to and better communicate with her patients.

"It's convenient for me because calling people is inconvenient, because you don't always get them and you could get their answering machine."

Convenience comes at a price

It also means more office time available to see patients who really need to be there. But that convenience also comes at a price, because right now the fee schedule for doctors doesn't allow them to be paid for interacting with a patient who doesn't come to the office.

"No doctor who's really busy is going to want to do extra stuff and not get paid for it," said Gregorie.

Faulkner and representatives for Doctors Nova Scotia have previously said discussions continue about a long-term payment strategy for physicians who decide to use the service.

But in the meantime doctors such as Gregorie give MyHealthNS high marks and Faulkner and the province hope that translates to more physicians signing up.

With files from Sabrina Fabian