Ontario is implementing a new Digital First for Health strategy that will help end hallway health care by offering more choices and making health care simpler, easier and more convenient for patients, families and providers. This strategy will harness the imagination and capabilities of Ontario’s digital health innovators to improve care for all Ontarians.

Once the new strategy is fully implemented, patients and caregivers will see a number of benefits, including:

  • more virtual care options – expanding availability of video visits and enabling other virtual care tools such as secure messaging. Additionally, providers will be able to leverage a variety of virtual care technologies that best meet the needs of their patients
  • expanded access to online appointment booking – patients will be able to book appointments that best meets their needs
  • greater data access for patients – more patients will be able to review their secure health record online and make informed choices about their care
  • better, more connected tools for frontline providers – more providers will be able to access patient records stored across multiple health service providers to provide better, faster care
  • data integration and predictive analytic – providers will face fewer barriers to integrating and using secure health information to manage health resources and improve patient care. This could lead to improvements such as earlier intervention and better management of chronic disease

This is an exciting time for health care in Ontario as the government brings the patient experience into the 21st century.

The first phase of the digital strategy will include a $3 million in new funding to increase the availability of virtual care with approximately 55,000 more video visits provided by physicians directly to patients in their location of choice over the next year. In addition, this first phase will enable Ontario Health Teams to collect, use and share information to allow for better patient care and outcomes. This will improve convenience for patients and promote more connected care by ensuring patients won’t need to retell their health information over and over.

This will be achieved through the proposed changes Ontario is making to modernize the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) that will also introduce stricter provisions for any individual or organization that misuses personal health information.

The proposed changes will:

  • ensure Ontario Health and Ontario Health Teams can collect, use and share information to allow for better patient care and outcomes while clearly outlining how access to information is protected and remains private
  • promote system integration by allowing for the ability to set common interoperability standards governing the use, disclosure and retention of digital health records, including requirements supporting the protection of patient privacy
  • better protect personal health information by taking measures to ensure that patient privacy is respected and maintained

PHIPA will also be strengthened by adding an offence provision and order making powers to deter individuals or organizations from compromising patient privacy.