Nova Scotia

No details given as to why contract for N.S. online health tool not renewed

The company that created a digital health service touted as the first of its kind available provincewide in Canada is walking away from managing the web portal MyHealthNS. Neither McKesson Canada nor the Nova Scotia government are explaining why.

MyHealthNS will continue to work for existing users, but no one else can subscribe

Health Minister Randy Delorey wouldn't provide specific details about why McKesson Canada decided not to renew its contract with the province. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia government is looking for a new service provider to manage MyHealthNS, after the leading technology company involved in its creation chose not to renew its contract to manage the web portal.

The service was rolled out provincewide in 2017 and was touted as the first digital health service of its kind to be available provincewide in Canada. It allows patients to view routine medical test results and to message their physicians. Today, less than 10 per cent of doctors have signed up for the web portal.

"The decision not to renew the contract was not taken lightly, as discussions took place over the last eight months to try and find a sustainable path forward for both McKesson Canada and the province," company spokesperson Andrew Forgione wrote in a statement to CBC News.

Asked why the company wasn't renewing the contract, Forgione didn't provide an explanation.

Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey refused to provide any details about the seemingly amicable parting of ways.

"Really, that's a business decision within McKesson," he said. "I'm not going to speak on their behalf as to their rationale and decision-making process.

"Suffice to say they respected the terms and conditions of their contract and have provided the services that they were required to provide."

Project costs

Of the $13.3 million originally budgeted for the project, only $8.5 million was spent on the project. McKesson was paid roughly half of that, $4.4 million based on usage and the volume of traffic to the web portal.

The federal government picked up 75 per cent of the costs, while the province shouldered the remaining 25 per cent. In all, the Nova Scotia government contributed $2.1 million.

Delorey said the portal would remain up and running and that users could continue to use it as they have, but people not currently using the system won't be able to subscribe to it until the platform is replaced.

Dr. Michelle Dow says she gets several messages a week from patients using MyHealthNS and the interactions are enough to prevent face-to-face appointments, which free up times for other patients. (CBC)

According to the contract between McKesson and the province, the company is obligated to keep the site up and running for six months, but neither it, nor the province will say when that transition period is due to expire.

Clare physician Michelle Dow not only used MyHealthNS, she was part of the advisory group set up to suggest ways to improve it.

"There was a bit of disappointment on my part because there's a few unknowns on what's going to happen with the portal," said the former Doctors Nova Scotia president.

Dow said her patients tell her they like the system and she gets several messages a week from patients who ask her questions or have concerns. In some cases, the online interaction is enough to satisfy those patients and that frees her up to see more people who want a face-to-face appointment.

E-bookings needed, says Dow

Dow hoped a new service provider could be found soon and that MyHealthNS could be improved and expanded.

"The functionality that I would really like to see in the clinic is something like e-booking," she said. "Lets face it, you can book restaurant [reservations] and stuff like that with online bookings, so that's a thing that could be integrated into the program."

Dow said one of the reasons so few doctors have signed up is the introduction of the service happened roughly at the same time as doctors offices were moving to new electronic medical records software. She said that may have discouraged some from shouldering additional IT changes.

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