Canada's Health Infostructure


The development of a comprehensive health infostructure in Canada will help our health care system meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The term "health infostructure" refers to the development and adoption of modern systems of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in the Canadian health care system. Such an infostructure will allow the people of Canada (the general public, patients and caregivers, as well as health care providers, health managers, health policymakers and health researchers) to communicate with each other and assist them to make informed decisions about their own health, the health of others, and Canada's health system.

ICTs are used to develop innovative applications such as electronic health records and telehealth tools as well as provide Internet-based health information. These applications can significantly improve the accessibility and quality of health services for all Canadians while increasing the efficiency of the health system.

The Government of Canada has been making financial investments to the health infostructure in Canada since the 1997 Budget. In so doing, it was following recommendations from the Information Highway Advisory Council, the Canadian Network for the Advancement of Research, Industry and Education (now CANARIE Inc.) the National Forum on Health, the Kirby Senate Study on the State of the Health Care System in Canada and the Romanow Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada.

A major step toward the development of Canada's health infostructure occurred with the establishment of Canada Health Infoway Inc. (Infoway) in 2001. Its mandate is to accelerate and coordinate the development and adoption of modern systems of health information and communication technologies (including electronic health record (EHR) initiatives) in Canada and define and promote standards governing shared data to ensure compatibility of health information networks.

Infoway is an independent not-for-profit organization whose members are Canada's 14 federal, provincial and territorial Deputy Ministers of Health. It co-invests with public sector partners Canada wide to implement and reuse compatible health information systems. This ensures the best alignment of Infoway's investments with jurisdictional plans, and the leveraging of existing solutions.

To date, funding has been provided to Infoway on three occasions: $500 million in 2001 in support of the First Ministers' Action Plan for Health System Renewal of September 2000 to strengthen a Canada-wide health infostructure to improve quality, access and timeliness of health care for Canadians, with the EHR as the key priority; $600 million in the First Ministers' Health Accord of February 2003, to accelerate implementation of the EHR; and $100 million as part of Budget 2004 to support the development of a pan-Canadian health surveillance system, with a particular focus on infectious disease.

Page details

Date modified: