ARCHIVED - Canada's Health Infostructure

Advisory Council on Health Infostructure

Canada Health Infoway: Paths to Better Health Final Report

Advisory Council on Health Infostructure. [Ottawa]: Health Canada, February 1999.

Connecting For Better Health: Strategic Issues: Interim Report

Advisory Council on Health Infostructure, [Ottawa]: Health Canada, September 1998.

The Advisory Council on Health Infostructure was established in August 1997 by the federal Minister of Health to provide advice and recommendations on the development of a comprehensive Canadian health infostructure. The 24 Council members were appointed for 18 months. The Council was co-chaired by Health Canada and a member of the Council.

The Council's mandate was to consider how information technologies and systems could best support and promote informed decision making by health professionals, administrators, planners, policy makers and individual Canadians. Its focus was a client-centred health infostructure to meet the needs of all stakeholders including the general public. The Council's work was not limited to health care. It also considered how to increase public understanding of broader, non-medical determinants of health.

The Council's objectives included:

  • developing a Canadian vision of a health information system on the information highway and identifying the essential needs it should meet;
  • generating a federal action agenda to implement the most vital components of the system;
  • suggesting collaborative mechanisms to achieve a Canadian consensus on an integrated health information system; and
  • identifying issues, challenges and barriers to the effective use of information and communications technologies, and recommending possible solutions.

Three working groups were set up: Key Policy Issues, Health Information for the General Public; and Technology/Applications. In September 1998, the Council released an interim report, Connecting for Better Health: Strategic Issues. In addition to outlining its progress, the report called for feedback on its interim conclusions. This feedback, along with that from other consultations - notably a February 1998 National Conference on Health Info-Structure and works commissioned during its mandate - contributed to the Council's final recommendations.

The Council presented its final report, Canada Health Infoway: Paths to Better Health, to the Minister of Health in February 1999. The report stated that setting up a nationwide health information highway could significantly improve the quality, accessibility and efficiency of health services across the entire spectrum of care in Canada. The vision for the Canada Health Infoway is as follows:

The Canada Health Infoway empowers individuals and communities to make informed choices about their own health, the health of others and Canada's health system. In an environment of strengthened privacy protection, it builds on federal, provincial and territorial infostructures to improve the quality and accessibility of health care and to enable integrated health services delivery. It provides the information and services that are the foundation for accountability, continuous improvement to health care and better understanding of the determinants of Canadians' health.

As stated in the report, the four strategic goals for the Canada Health Infoway are:

Empowering the general public

  • health information for the public
  • Aboriginal health infostructure

Strengthening and integrating health care services

  • information for health providers
  • clinical decision support
  • electronic health record
  • health surveillance
  • selfcare/telecare
  • telehealth

Creating the information resources for accountability and continuous feedback on factors affecting the health of Canadians

  • health data holdings
  • health information analysis and reporting

iImproving privacy protection within the health sector

  • privacy protection
  • infostructure standards

The Council's recommendations focussed on such key elements as health information for the public, telehealth, accessibility, legislative mechanisms for ensuring privacy, and the need to establish an Aboriginal health infostructure.

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