ARCHIVED - 2006 GOL Report: Health Canada's GOL Journey to Success [Health Canada, 2006]

Health Canada's GOL Journey To Success

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Health Canada's Mission and Vision

Health Canada is responsible for helping the people of Canada maintain and improve their health. The Department respects individual choices and circumstances, and seeks to put Canada among the countries with the healthiest people in the world.

What We Do

In partnership with provincial and territorial governments, Health Canada provides national leadership to develop health policy, enforce health regulations, promote disease prevention and enhance healthy living for all Canadians. The Department ensures that health services are available and accessible to First Nations and Inuit communities. It also works closely with other federal departments, agencies and health stakeholders to reduce health and safety risks to Canadians.

Departmental Relationships

Health Canada's roles, in all aspects of its work, are anchored in a pair of key realities.

First, since a large number of social, behavioural, physical and economic determinants interact to affect the health of individuals, the Department uses a wide and strategic range of policies and actions to maintain and improve the health of Canadians.

Second, progress on Canada's health priorities requires collaboration and coordination among many partners. For example, the Department works with the provinces and territories to ensure the long-term sustainability of Canada's health system while safeguarding the principles of the Canada Health Act. Through its First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, the Department works with the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the First Nations communities themselves, and the provinces and territories to provide quality health services to First Nations and Inuit in Canada. In developing a spectrum of departmental policies and activities, the Department works with the voluntary and community sectors, health professionals, the private sector and individual Canadians.

The Department also works closely with other members of the Health Portfolio, including the Public Health Agency of Canada 1, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission, the Patent Medicine Prices Review Board, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

1 The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) was formed in 2004 and incorporates former organizational components of Health Canada. PHAC's GOL initiatives are therefore included in this report.

2. Health Canada e-Government Strategy and Vision

The vision for Health Canada in the area of e-Government states:

"Health Canada will be front- and-centre in the advancement of timely and trusted electronic health information and service delivery."

Health Canada will achieve this vision by:

  1. transforming information and services for on-line delivery;
  2. integrating information and service delivery methods (e.g. Internet, telephone, in-person);
  3. providing national leadership in the advancement of e-government concepts within the health community;
  4. ensuring a continued trusted relationship with Canadians by providing appropriate levels of protection for their personal information;
  5. confirming that the information and services being provided are those that are needed by Canadians;
  6. working cooperatively with its federal/provincial/territorial partners and private sector stakeholders.

Steps are being undertaken in all areas of the Department to move Health Canada closer to achieving this vision. Since its May 2000 inception, the Department's Government On-Line (GOL) Office has coordinated and been the champion for GOL activities. As the GOL initiative sunsets at fiscal year end 2005, the new focus for Health Canada will include the Government of Canada's Service Vision for Canadians that makes citizens the centre of business transformation activities.

3. Health Canada Continues to Advance the GOL Agenda

Health Canada supports Canada's service strategy goals of delivering key on-line services and integrating service delivery across channels. The Department is strategically aligned to provide trusted and authoritative health information by whichever method Canadians choose, be it in person, by fax, phone or via the Internet or e-mail.

As more federal and provincial jurisdictions have become collaborators in on-line delivery of information and services, and as Canadians have continued to move on line and away from other service channels, Health Canada has become better positioned to support on-line goals. The Department remains committed to the use of information and communication technologies to improve access to client-centred and integrated services.

Health Canada is focussed on a service delivery vision that includes:

  1. rethinking delivery of information and services;
  2. encouraging up-take of electronic offerings;
  3. increasing e-enablers and common business processes;
  4. achieving sustainability for on-line service offerings and integrated Web sites;
  5. engaging partners on service and policy fronts;
  6. creating new governance and accountability models;
  7. building a flexible, adaptable workforce.

Health Canada is involved in a number of initiatives in support of the on-line objectives of the Government of Canada (GoC). These initiatives include those described below.

Canada Health Portal

The Canada Health Portal provides Canadians with single-window, on-line access to trusted and authoritative health information. The Portal includes information for specific groups of the public such as seniors, youth, children, Aboriginal peoples, veterans and the international traveller.

In addition to incorporating Health Canada subject matter, the Canada Health Portal provides access to health information and services from several other federal government departments, the Canadian Health Network, provincial and territorial governments, municipalities, Canadian non-government agencies and major health-related bodies such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control.

The Canada Health Portal was launched in May 2002 and initially provided single-window access to health-related electronic information and services from several federal departments and agencies. Today, the Canada Health Portal provides Canadians with an authoritative and integrated view of health information and services from various government jurisdictions and other organizations across Canada.

The Canada Health Portal has regularly consulted Canadians in a continuing effort to enhance the site in terms of their needs and preferences. In response to this client feedback, additional features have been added, including Healthy Living Tools which include quizzes, questionnaires and virtual games to help users make wise and healthier choices; Newsroom, offering health news released by federal, provincial and municipal government organizations; and On-Line Forms and Services.

The Canada Health Portal has engaged in collaborative partnerships within the Government of Canada community, such as with youth.gc.ca, and within Health Canada, resulting in sections specifically developed for youth and for women. Collaboration with CanadaBenefits has enabled the Canada Health Portal to offer the Benefits Finder feature, enabling Canadians to get a personalized list of benefits for which they may be eligible.

Progress in 2005-2006

In the last year, the Canada Health Portal has embarked on several activities to improve on-line information delivery, including search engine optimization, resource ranking, and the creation of Mr. Knowsit and the "Calorie-smart Kids".

  • External search engines play a key role in providing Canadians with access to sites on the Internet. Activities aimed at search engine optimization have improved the frequency and ranking of the Canada Health Portal in external search engine results. As a result, Canadians have better access to Canada Health Portal information.
  • User behaviour on the Internet indicates that Web sites have very little time to prove their value to users. If a visitor cannot rapidly locate what he or she is seeking, the site will be abandoned. With this in mind, the Canada Health Portal now uses ranking criteria for links to ensure that the most important, valuable, useful and appropriate resources within a topic are presented first to users.
  • As part of Health Canada's efforts to control the epidemic of obesity affecting Canadians, the Canada Health Portal supported the creation of Mr. Knowsit and the "Calorie-smart Kids", an interactive on-line storybook targeted at children aged six to ten. Mr. Knowsit is a cartoon character who helps inform kids and grown-ups about childhood obesity and its prevention, healthy eating and physical exercise for children. Mr. Knowsit tells stories and provides links to other credible and trustworthy Internet sites.

Visits to the Canada Health Portal have increased by 71% over the past year, with Conditions and Diseases, Youth and Travel among the most popular sections.

The Canada Health Portal team will continue to make information more readily available to Canadians, and to expand its partner base to broaden the range of health topics it addressed by the Portal.

Service Transformation

Health Canada supports the GoC Service Strategy Vision that identifies the need to set a federal service delivery vision for citizens and clients that is client-centred and integrated across the whole of government and across service delivery channels. The Department recognizes that there are significant opportunities to capitalize upon new service delivery capabilities to meet raised client expectations for access to service and information. Successful exploitation of these opportunities and the development of a departmental service delivery vision should allow for citizens to have a choice of devices and channels for pervasive access to health service and information at home, at work, on the move or in the community.

Health Canada is committed to the development of a new Service Delivery Vision and Strategy that will set out the strategic direction to plan and shape the future development of service and information delivery over all service channels.

Service Improvement Initiative

Treasury Board's Service Improvement Initiative applies to Departments with significant direct service delivery to Canadians. This initiative is designed to achieve significant, measurable and sustainable improvement in Canadians' satisfaction with the quality of service provided by federal government departments and agencies.

Health Canada began this initiative with five key information services: Canadian Health Network, It's Your Health publications, Pest Management 1-800 Information System, Non-Insured Health Benefits Drug Exception Centre, and Health Canada's General Enquiries Lines.

Annual client satisfaction surveys are conducted for these initiatives and suggestions obtained from the surveys for improving services are implemented and reported to clients. The results of these surveys form the basis for annual service improvement plans, including setting service improvement targets and service standards.

Although the Service Improvement Initiative is sunsetting, Health Canada will build upon the success of these initiatives by persisting in its efforts to identify and plan for continuous client satisfaction improvement in other areas of the Department that provide client-facing services.

Health Canada On-Line Website

With a rapidly-growing number of visits (an average of 1.7 million visits per month in 2005, up sharply from 1.0 million per month in 2004), the Health Canada Web site is clearly a destination for Canadians from a number of stakeholder groups to find information to solve their query, a service to further their work, or a means to interact with the Department to comment on an issue or to ask a question. While the departmental Web site has been serving the needs of our stakeholders in many of these areas for more than ten years, the launch of a new, integrated site in August, 2005 has dramatically improved the experience visitors have. The blending of over 140 uniquely-branded, organizationally-based Web sites into one, subject-based Web site has resulted in a more streamlined, intuitive tool for Canadians.

The new site now ensures that Health Canada is:

  • in-line with the Government of Canada's priority to provide client-centred service to Canadians through easy to access information and service channels (i.e. Service Canada, Gateways and Cluster initiative, canada.gc.ca, etc.);
  • well-positioned to have greater cooperation and, ultimately, to realize potential savings with other health portfolio partners, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canada Health Portal and the Canadian Health Network.

In addition to the redesign of the Web site, strides have been taken in refining the departmental infrastructure for Web publishing so that there is greater consistency, greater compliance with Health Canada and Government of Canada standards and guidelines, and more accountability in how Web content gets managed. Enhanced organization and management of the Web site will also solidify the connection between Web content and the experts and professionals in the program delivery areas of the Department, ensuring that the content of the departmental Web site is always current, relevant and accurate.

Work to evolve the Health Canada Web site subsequent to the GOL initiative is continuing on a number of different fronts to meet the emerging business needs of the Department and the expectations of users. Areas of focus include:

  • Strategic Planning - To complement the launch of the integrated Web site, a Department wide exercise will develop an integrated strategic plan for the Web site up to the end of the 2007/08 fiscal year.
  • Research and Evaluation - Through the analysis of Web site statistics and the use of various public opinion research tools (e.g. feedback, online polls/surveys, focus testing, etc.) the Health Canada site will remain in-tune with user needs;
  • Content Management - As a strategic communications tool for the Department, the Web site needs to speak to all Canadians (e.g. general population, academics, industry, health professionals, etc.). A renewed focus on the character of this communication (i.e. literacy level, tone, degree of detail, etc.) will ensure the site is accessible for all audiences.
  • Web Technology - With an ever-increasing focus on online service delivery, the Department will continue to look for innovative ways through technology to improve client interaction, including, for example, the management of online regulatory processes, access to a Web consultations and the delivery of health promotion messages through dynamic online presentations.

The Health Canada Web site is a dynamic tool that will enable the Department to continue to meet its business objectives while maximizing the opportunities for visitors to find the information or service that they need to maintain and improve their health.

Privacy

The health care field is an information-intensive sector. Consequently, Health Canada finds itself, at times, the custodian of sensitive and personal health information. The Department takes its role of ensuring public trust seriously, especially as it supports the development and implementation of electronic health services for the public. To maintain a trusted relationship with Canadians regarding the handling of their personal information, the Department is developing and implementing corporate policies and privacy practices, training and awareness programs. The Department also works with stakeholders on the protection of personal health information within the broader health sector and on policy with the provincial and territorial governments.

Health Canada, in collaboration with its federal, provincial and territorial counterparts, has developed a Pan-Canadian Health Information Privacy and Confidentiality Framework. The objective of this framework is to respond to Canadians' privacy and confidentiality expectations while enabling the flow of information to support effective health care and interoperable, electronic health record systems. The framework is a valuable tool to achieve more consistent privacy provisions across jurisdictions as well as across the commercial and non-commercial sectors of health care.

4. Meeting On-Line Objectives

Health Canada is well established on the 'information super highway' with its extensive public presence on the World Wide Web and its collaborations with key health stakeholders and multi-jurisdictional partnerships for initiatives such as the Canada Health Portal, the Canadian Health Network and the First Nations and Inuit Health Information System.

The Canadian Health Network

Health promotion is one of the three core pillars of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). As a key health information program of the PHAC, the Canadian Health Network (CHN) is a federally-funded, public health promotion collection, management and distribution program built on the concept of a multi-layered, multi-sectoral collaboration among health organizations committed to improving the health and well-being of Canadians.

The CHN's mission is to promote healthy choices by communicating credible and trustworthy information on health promotion and disease and injury prevention. It is one of the PHAC's most direct and effective interfaces with the Canadian public and a key tool for horizontal integration, collaboration and presentation of information. Citizens who engage in healthy activities improve and maintain their quality of life and reduce their chances of getting sick. The PHAC supports Canadians in this endeavour through the development and delivery of a range of healthy human development activities across all ages.

The Canadian Health Network is a Canada Health Infostructure initiative. It is a collaboration of 22 major health organizations across Canada which act as content experts for the identification and recommendation of resources specific to their content or group area.

The CHN employs a 'population health/determinants of health' approach in its work. This reflects the idea that factors outside the health care system can have significant impacts on health. While actions of individual citizens affect their health, broader systemic issues, including the environments in which they live and work, their culture, and a myriad of other interrelated factors also help to determine their health status.

By providing valuable information, the Canadian Health Network helps to promote healthy living, address risk factors such as physical inactivity and poor nutrition, and prevent injury and disease. As well, the Canadian Health Network content areas address the four chronic diseases which cause two-thirds of all deaths in Canada (cancer, diabetes, respiratory disease, and cardiovascular disease including stroke).

The Canadian Health Network offers some 17,000 quality-assured resources from over 1,200 network contributors, including universities, hospitals, libraries and community organizations. This information resonates with Canadians, as demonstrated by the continued increase in the numbers of unique visitors to the Web site since its launch in 1999. In the past 5 years, there have been dramatic increases in usership, as the Canadian Health Network continues to respond to the needs of Canadians. In 2000, the monthly average of unique visitors measured at over 38,000. This number increased to over 71,000 in 2002; to over 93,000 in 2003; and to over 123,000 in 2004. In 2005, the Canadian Health Network measured a monthly average of over 192,000 unique visitors. This number continues to grow each month as awareness of the Web site increases.

Timely health-related articles on various themes and topics are highlighted each month. To enhance user experience, the Canadian Health Network offers a client-focused, bilingual subscription service entitled HealthLink, issued every two weeks to correspond with the presentation of new content features on the site. Subscriptions to this free electronic newsletter are offered at promotional and other venues, and have proven to be a very popular feature for CHN users.

Other popular features for users include the ability to ask health information questions directly to partnering organizations, and to provide feedback on the Canadian Health Network's information service provision.

Through features such as these, the Canadian Health Network continues to meet users' needs effectively and to remain foremost in the minds of readers.

Public opinion research on the Canadian Health Network has been positive. Canadians recognize the Canadian Health Network as a source of relevant and useful information, and consumers place a great deal of faith in the site. Results of an on-line survey, conducted in the spring of 2004, revealed that approximately 95% of users were either satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of information provided by the CHN. The 2005 on-line user survey recorded similar rates of satisfaction. The 2004 user survey also demonstrated that 92% of users were likely to recommend the site to others. In 2005, this percentage increases to 94%. Those who use the site most frequently are the most likely to recommend the Web site to others, suggesting a high level of satisfaction with the Canadian Health Network.

On average, Canadian Health Network users visited the site either weekly or monthly. One in five users visits the site for professional reasons and 17% of all visitors to the Canadian Health Network are nurses. The Web site had a monthly average of over 160,000 unique visitors in 2004, and registered an average in excess of six million hits per month during 2003-2004. In 2005, the Web site had a monthly average of over 192,000 unique visitors, and registered and over 2.3 million unique visitors - an increase of 55% from 2004, and an increase of 297% from 2001.

Office of Public Health Practice

The Office of Public Health Practice (OPHP, formerly the Centre for Surveillance Coordination), was created in May 2005 as part of the Public Health Agency of Canada reorganization and to help the Agency achieve its goals and objectives. The Office contributes to fulfilling a number of Agency's priorities and strengthens public health in Canada and internationally by facilitating collaboration and enhancing public health capacity. The creation of OPHP ensured that the key work in the field of infrastructure development continues.

The OPHP's mandate is to improve public health infrastructure by focussing on workforce, information and knowledge systems, and public health law/ethics and information policy through leadership, innovation and concerted action. Over the past several years, OPHP initiatives have been geared towards building and strengthening the infrastructure for evidence-based decision making in public health, including online tools and applications.

These solutions are aimed towards public health practitioners at various levels of government. They have made extensive use of the latest information and communication technologies and have produced on-line solutions that improve the sharing and dissemination of information to those that need to know.

In the development of these on-line solutions, OPHP has worked with all levels of government, and received strong commitment from partner organizations, which has helped OPHP receive broad acceptance across Canada.

Some OPHP activities include:

  • Canadian Integrated Public Health Surveillance (CIPHS) Project: CIPHS is a model for the long-term convergence of public health data management and increased organizational efficiency of the national public health community. The program is composed of a number of computer and database applications, including the Laboratory Data Management System and a public health case management system, the Public Health Information System (iPHIS).
  • iPHIS is a unique Web-based software suite consisting of a number of customized health information management modules for the use of front-line public health providers, health managers, epidemiologists and health researchers. The various iPHIS modules provide tools for both client assessment and case management. iPHIS enables the recording, storage, access, and management of patient-specific health information, treatments, and outcomes.
  • Following several successful pilot implementations across Canada, the iPHIS solution is currently operational in the following jurisdictions:
    • British Columbia
    • Yukon
    • Northwest Territories
    • Alberta (including Alberta Health and Wellness and the David Thompson Health Region, Red Deer)
    • Saskatchewan
    • Winnipeg Regional Health Region
    • Ontario
    • Bahamas
    iPHIS won an award in the Health Category of the Fifth Annual Public Sector Technology Awards and was honoured during the Strategies for Public Sector Transformation Conference in Victoria on October 16, 2002. This award recognized the development and implementation of an IT solution in Health care that has significantly improved program delivery and/or enhanced services to the public in British Columbia.
  • Geographic Information Systems Infrastructure Program:
    The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Infrastructure program offers data, tools, training, and mapping and advisory services to increase the GIS capacity of public health professionals in Canada. The GIS Infrastructure program enables public health professionals to visualize and analyze health data in a spatial context and support evidence-based decision making and research in areas such as chronic and infectious disease prevention and control, health promotion, surveillance, emergency preparedness and response, and pandemic flu preparedness. The GIS Infrastructure is recognized as a critically- important and evolving tool.

    Over the years, the GIS Infrastructure program has consulted and collaborated with approximately 250 public health professionals in 95 public health organizations across Canada. As information technology becomes commonplace in public health, more practitioners will be able to access the GIS Infrastructure.

    The program promotes the use of a user-friendly online tool for public health professionals called the Public Health Map Generator. The Public Health Map Generator addresses current public health GIS needs for a cost-effective solution by providing a bilingual Web site for public health professionals to create their own maps in a simple and timely manner. Public health professionals map their tabular health data using spatial data from an integrated spatial data warehouse, needing little or no previous GIS skills or knowledge.

    Another Web-based service offered by the GIS Infrastructure is a collaborative Map and Data Exchange (MaDEx) discussion database. The MaDEx collaborative forum connects public health practitioners across the country with their colleagues and GIS specialists to address their needs for data, services and expertise in the rapidly emerging field of health geomatics.

    The program plans to improve its GIS services by developing a GIS Skills module for training public health professionals.

eHealth Support for First Nations and Inuit Communities

The First Nations and Inuit Health Information System (FNIHIS) is a community-based electronic health information system used to support delivery of health programs in First Nations and Inuit communities. It provides access to health information for case management, program planning and health assessments.

The system has been developed by Health Canada's First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) in partnership with First Nation and Inuit communities and is a Canada Health Infostructure and Electronic Health Care Services System initiative. The current version of FNIHIS comprises 12 subsystems including client core information, immunization, tests, medication and chronic disease. The tool allows for informed decisions about patients by health professionals providing care in on-reserve health facilities. An administrative tool for home and community care - the Electronic Service Delivery Reporting Template (e-SDRT) - was deployed in autumn 2003.

To better suit the needs of First Nations and Inuit health facilities, a broader e-Health strategy has been adopted by FNIHB to embrace the growing spectrum of health related technology being introduced that can assist in improving primary health care delivery, and ultimately health outcomes in First Nations and Inuit communities. e-Health is defined as the coordinated and integrated use of information technology to support, manage and enhance the delivery of health programs and services. It encompasses information management (IM), health service delivery and telecommunications.

E-Health technologies allow for a stronger focus on the importance of using information and communications technologies to make better use of professionals' time and expertise, to, among other things, help mitigate recruitment and retention pressures that face many First Nations and Inuit communities in critical areas like nursing. It also allows Health Canada, to advance efforts to align with the emerging health information systems of the provinces and territories. This is critical for Canada's health care delivery systems to have the ability to exchange data and share information to, for example, better manage communicable disease outbreaks and undertake disease prevention initiatives on a national basis across all population groups and regions.

Telehealth and First Nations and Inuit Communities

Access to healthcare specialists can be challenging for First Nations and Inuit populations living in remote and sometimes isolated areas in which the only way in, or out of the community is by airplane. Telehealth technology is assisting in meeting this challenge. Telehealth refers to the use of information and communications technology (ICT) to deliver health services, expertise and information, and overcome, geographical, time-based, social and cultural barriers.

Nationally where the technology has been made available, Telehealth evaluations have recognized the following benefits to remote First Nations and Inuit communities:

  • Improving access to specialist care, which can lead to improvements in the diagnostic skills of community-based personnel, while reducing the stress levels for both care providers and patients;
  • Reducing the number of patient transfers to specialist centres;
  • Improving waiting times for consultations, assessments, and monitoring;
  • Improving time management through data sharing among primary health care providers at the community level;
  • Supporting service integration with the provinces, and
  • Contributing to support and education/training for staff in a fashion that improves retention and recruitment.

The initial mandate of the Alberta First Nations Telehealth Program (AFNTP) was to develop the technical infrastructure to provide both videoconferencing and Internet access to Alberta First Nations health workers throughout the province. This is now complete. Part two of the overall mandate sees the AFNTP facilitating the development of telehealth programs and maintaining a Health Portal for the benefit of health care workers in First Nations communities. This is now underway. The Internet Health Portal (onehealth.ca) currently provides ubiquitous access to e-mail, discussion groups, health information, news and the Virtual Health Library - an electronic document repository providing on-line access to thousands of health related documents. Today Onehealth.ca has approximately 2,000 registered users nationally.

Nationally there are about 95 videoconferencing sites and 80 telehealth sites in First Nations and Inuit communities across Canada, with a number of new initiatives being planned. With Telehealth a prominent theme in the recent Blueprint for Aboriginal Health (First Ministers Meeting, Kelowna, 2005), it is clear that community-level health care providers and Aboriginal communities view telehealth as essential to improving service delivery.

Remote Community Connections

"The benefits of the satellite connection have been tremendous. We are now able to provide health services to patients that otherwise would not have been possible without having to leave the community."

Lilly Spray

Community Health Nurse in Deer Lake, Ontario

As a result of the geographic remoteness of many of First Nations and Inuit communities, providing the required infrastructure for high speed internet connections can be both challenging and can require significant investments.

Since 2002, FNIHB has deployed 200 high-speed bi-directional satellites to serve remote and isolated health facilities nationally. In addition, wireless LANS were installed in 85 of those facilities. For example, the magnitude of the change is evident in Saskatchewan, where the region has gone from just 1 health facility with a high speed connection to 51 in just two years. Where the technology is available, most health facilities have been connected to broadband and high speed Internet.

With a small percentage of community-based health facilities continuing to manage with dial-up connections, FNIHB is working with other government departments to develop joint approaches to bring broadband capability to all First Nations and Inuit communities and health centres, to enable the use of current and future e-Health and Telehealth technologies.

Canada Health Infostructure Partnerships Program (CHIPP)

Initiated in 2000, CHIPP was an $80M cost-shared, incentive program aimed at supporting collaboration, innovation, and renewal in health care delivery through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). CHIPP supported the implementation of 29 e-health projects across the country in a cost-shared partnership with governments, hospitals and other stakeholders. The programs that were developed improved the accessibility, quality, and efficiency of health care service and delivery across Canada, especially in rural and remote areas.

As examples: one project used ICTs to bring diabetes screening services to Aboriginal communities in northern Alberta; another introduced telemedicine services, in more than 30 disciplines, to over 60 northern Ontario communities; CHIPP co-funded the development of a standard-based electronic health record system in British Columbia that supported the information needs of mental health service providers.

While CHIPP ended March 2004, most of the 29 projects have been sustained by their provincial and territorial governments to contribute to the renewal of health care delivery to all Canadians.

To ensure that the lessons learned from the CHIPP projects were not lost, Health Canada secured the expertise of Canada's primary e-health researchers to use the CHIPP project information, now contained in the CHIPP database, to produce seven key policy research papers in such areas as integration of telehealth within the continuum of care, governance, evaluation models, continuing education and the impact on health human resources. These research papers are available from Health Canada.

CHIPP was an extremely successful program. Attention to due diligence, dissemination of information, and the fostering of projects collaboration won many of the staff several Deputy Minister Awards, and the Program's success was instrumental in the establish of Canada Health Infoway.

Synopses of all 29 projects including contact information and their final project reports can be found on the Health Canada Web site: Health Infostructure Partnerships Program.

Pest Management Regulatory Agency - Electronic Pesticide Regulatory System (e-PRS)

As part of the Government On-Line Initiative, Health Canada launched the Electronic Pesticide Regulatory System (e-PRS), a web-based service for conducting pesticide regulatory transactions.

This service allows industry to submit applications, provide data and apply for product registration in a stable and secure on line environment. It also allows for information to be delivered, stored, accessed, retrieved, exchanged and used more effectively and efficiently. The result is a more effective service delivery channel for registrants to conduct business with the Department. It will enable the Department to process and report on pesticide information in a more transparent and timely manner and will lead to a more efficient and cost-effective management of the regulatory process.

The primary GOL commitment was met with the successful delivery of the Access Management Module of e-PRS in September 2004. This module allows those planning to submit information to the Department to manage their on-line accounts, passwords and the assignment of rights and privileges to others as necessary, based on business needs.

As part of the system the Department developed and implemented the e-Index Builder component that facilitates the ability for applicants to build electronic submissions. The e-Index Builder enables the Department to automate the loading and cataloguing of documents to the electronic information management system. Since the launch of the e-Index Builder in September 2005, the tool has been downloaded over 500 times and we have received over 200 e-Index submissions.

The next phase of development includes full integration with Secure Channel in order to receive electronic submissions securely over the Internet within fiscal year 2006-2007.

Canadian Institutes of Health Research - ResearchNet

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is Canada's major federal funding agency for health research. The research community in Canada is large, diverse and increasingly multi-disciplinary. It not only covers health research, but also research in engineering, natural and social sciences. Information sharing is crucial to the health community at all stages of scientific discovery, and innovative information services like the Internet, e-mail and the World Wide Web offer great potential for increased collaboration and efficiency. Even greater benefits can be gained if multiple research organizations pool their resources to create common Internet tools for the research community as a whole.

This sharing of organizational effort is central to the CIHR eServices Strategy, and is one of the major components of ResearchNet, a portal which will function as a virtual meeting place for the research community. In a single access, researchers will be able to research funding opportunities, apply for funding, collaborate with other researchers on administrative tasks, conduct peer reviews of applications and track the status of applications throughout the competition process. All these services will be offered electronically within a secure environment.

Already, the ResearchNet vision is becoming a reality. The Canadian Common CV allows researchers to manage their curriculum vitae (CV) data in a single repository and generate CVs that meet the requirements set out by any member organization of the Canadian Common CV Network. Since its launch in 2002, over 30,000 researchers and students have placed their CVs on-line. The number of participating agencies has grown to 15. Similarly, The Canadian Research Information System, a database that allows the public to access funding data from multiple Canadian agencies, has a total of 7 participating agencies that have placed approximately 17,000 entries on-line.

Since 2004, ResearchNet has launched several pilot projects to automate the grant and award competition process for application submission and peer review. The electronic peer review tools provide for the submission and distribution of reviews to reviewers and applicants. Three of CIHR's core funding programs and their 60 peer review committees are now using this system, which continues to receive a favourable response with a 93% overall satisfaction rating. Both the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council are also piloting the peer review tool. The electronic submission portion of ResearchNet allows researchers to complete all required forms, compile all components of their grant application and submit electronically. In the first CIHR two pilots in 2005, there was a 98% take-up rate.

In 2006, ResearchNet plans to launch a National Funding Opportunities database to allow researchers to query on multiple sources of research funding, expand the number of agencies using this shared service and enhance the e-submission process to provide more features to applicants seeking research funding.

Global Public Health Intelligence Network

The Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) system, an early-warning system for potential public health threats worldwide, was developed as a prototype in 1998 by Health Canada in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). In September 2004, the GPHIN program was transferred to the new Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

The GPHIN system was initially intended as a proof of concept however, it's utility as an early-warning tool was quickly recognized and began to provide support to Health Canada and the WHO. The internet-based system monitored media sources worldwide and gathered and posted in the system relevant articles about potential public health threats. In 2002, the GPHIN system received a gold award in the annual GTEC Distinction Awards for government information technology projects for its innovation and use of cutting-edge information technologies. This system has been instrumental in providing preliminary information about a public health threat including the SARS outbreak in 2003.

Since the GPHIN system was a prototype it was not robust and did not have any machine intelligence. The system was only capable of handling English and French content. GPHIN Analysts manually monitored, gathered, filtered and disseminated media reports in Chinese, Russian and Spanish to users. It did not have any machine translation capabilities therefore GPHIN Analysts translated the titles of the non-English articles into English before disseminating the selected articles to users by email.

In 2003-2004, with funding from the Canadian government and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (a Ted Turner Foundation), a new multilingual Internet-based early warning tool was developed in collaboration with Nstein Technologies, Inc. In November 2004, the system was launched at a press conference at the United Nations in New York, United States. Mr. Ted Turner, in his capacity as Co-Chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative helped launch the GPHIN multilingual system. Joining him were Mr. Ujjal Dosanjh, Canada's Health Minister at the time; Dr. Stephen J. Corber, Area Manager of Disease Prevention and Control for the Pan-American Health Organization of the WHO; David Butler-Jones, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada; and from Ottawa, via satellite, Dr. Ron St. John, Director General, Centre for Emergency Preparedness, PHAC.

The new multilingual early-warning system monitors, gathers and provides preliminary reports of public health significance in Arabic, Chinese Simplified and Traditional, English, Farsi, French, Russian and Spanish on a near real-time, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week basis. This unique multilingual system monitors global media sources such as news wires and Web sites.

The GPHIN system tracks events such as disease outbreaks, emerging and re-emerging diseases in humans, animals and plants, occurrences of contaminated food and water, bio-terrorism, exposure to chemicals and radioactive materials, and issues related to the safety of products, drugs and medical devices.

The system is used by the global public health community, including the WHO in its efforts to minimize health risks by developing appropriate risk management, control and prevention measures and responses.

Information gathered through the GPHIN system is filtered for relevancy by an automated process, which is then complemented by human analysis. The output is categorized and made accessible to users. Credibility is assured through the system's subscription to global media providers and its frequent audit of the sources from which information is retrieved.

Future enhancements to the system include the expansion of languages such as Portuguese and the implementation of advanced analytical tools. The plan is also to incorporate text-to-speech and speech-to-text capabilities.

5. Identifying Client Needs

Health Canada invests in public opinion research each year. This research feeds advisory and decision support processes in communications, policy development and program management, and guides the strategic thinking of departmental management.

In addition to its subscription to a syndicated survey dedicated to what Web users need, Health Canada ensures almost every departmental survey has a component that probes issues related to Canadians' preferences for receiving information. Further, the Health Canada Web site provides a feedback survey form that allows categorization of Web site users and their satisfaction levels. This survey and public opinion information is analyzed, synthesized, and feeds the development of strategic plans for GOL.

In 2005-2006 the Public Opinion Research and Evaluation Division has undertaken numerous online research initiatives (some of which are still ongoing). Among others, these include online consultations with stakeholders and members of the public on Canada's Food Guide, a survey of First Nations And Inuit Health Branch environmental health officers on drinking water advisories and wells, a survey of Health Canada employees on the departmental Intranet, and an online survey of youth on tobacco issues. Additionally, Health Canada undertook, or is planning a number of usability tests of various departmental initiative driven web sites including the healthy living/sport participation web site, and the Canada Food Guide web site.

6. Contact GOL at Health Canada

Further information may be obtained from:

Government On-line Group
Service Transformation Strategies Centre
Information Management Services Directorate
Health Canada
info@hc-sc.gc.ca

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