Ongoing Demand for Telehealth Drives Technology Investments in Canada


Telehealth in Canada is fueling investments in technology solutions that best support virtual healthcare delivery. As EHRs are replaced, record retention requirements vary greatly throughout the ten provinces and three territories (e.g., five years from the last date of entry in Quebec to 16 years from the last date of entry in British Columbia). As new solutions are on-boarded, legacy records need a secure, accessible, and compliant long-term home. That’s where the active archive, HealthData Archiver®, fits in.


COVID-19 sparked an increase in the need for telehealth, with virtual care providers adapting and pivoting to meet the increased demand for services and accommodating the Canadian government’s funding and payment models. Before the pandemic, four percent of Canadians utilized telehealth services and since March 2020 that figure has increased to 47 percent. Even as the pandemic starts to slow down, telehealth services remain a popular option for many Canadians. In a recent survey, 8 out of 10 Canadians reported they would like to see online booking/scheduling, health services in local pharmacies and telehealth services continue. As such, there is a need to modernize healthcare delivery and a continued demand for high-tech solutions — especially those that support virtual care visits.

COVID-19 highlighted the need for increased investment in telehealth, which is predicted to grow in Canada at an 18.2 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2022-2030 and will reach $18.532 billion in 2030. This growth is fueled by several factors including lack of access to healthcare in Canada which causes extremely long wait times partly due to a chronic shortage of physicians and compounded by the country’s geography.

Interestingly, 22 percent of Canadians do not have a primary care provider or nurse practitioner to support their overall healthcare needs. This can lead to problems that are not caught in a timely manner and increase reliance on walk-in clinics and emergency rooms. Virtual care for this population can be a game-changer with increased access to medical services.

Health Spending Growing for Technology Solutions

In its 2023-2024 Plan, Health Canada states a Core Responsibility is to: Work toward a modern, connected, world-class health system – Improve how health data is collected and used to better inform the care that patients receive. This, in conjunction with improved digital health systems, will allow Canadians to access their own health information in a timely manner.

The Canadian government announced it will spend nearly $200 billion, in addition to existing commitments, in the next ten years on healthcare in Canada. The government is supporting numerous technology-based efforts and had previously designated $13.4 million to a few Toronto-based telehealth companies and an “innovation hub” in the industry.

Connecting the Health System for a Healthier Canada

There are many initiatives underway to improve the connectedness of the healthcare system within Canada. One is a collaboration between Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) and numerous stakeholders including the government, health care providers, clinicians, and patients has its sights set on end-to-end healthcare data interoperability for all audiences. The primary goals of the collaborative effort include better accessibility for Canadians to access and share health data, a modernized health system built on connected care and improved data flow and better data to inform system-level planning. Currently, fragmented systems and lack of interoperability are a significant issue with only 34 percent of physicians able to exchange patient’s clinical summaries.

EHR System Replacement is a Natural Part of Health Information Evolution

About 93 percent of family doctors are using EMRs, but systems are not connected and few can share patient summaries or laboratory and diagnostic test results. This may result in EHR system replacements to better meet the healthcare provider’s evolving needs. Currently the top EHR vendors in Canada — in order — are MEDITECH, Epic, and Oracle Cerner. Epic is making strides in terms of market share growth and in customer satisfaction.

As EHR systems are upgraded and replaced, often there is a need to retain access to the health and business records for many years following a system replacement. As such, a record retention strategy and active archive plan is needed.

There are differences in retention requirements among Canada’s 10 provinces and 3 territories. In general, medical record retention in Canada is 10 years from the date of last entry or 10 years from when the patient reaches the age of majority or until the physician ceases to practice if some conditions are met. Overall, experts recommend retaining medical records in Canada for a minimum of 15 years.

The data management experts at Harmony Healthcare IT deliver data where it is needed.

Harmony Healthcare IT works with healthcare teams in Canada to map out and perform extractionmigration, conversion and long-term data storage strategies based on retention guidelines and the organization’s needs. It’s important that health data is available and actionable in either the go-forward EHR or the active archive. The Harmony Healthcare IT team can customize features to meet specific Canadian deployment needs, should that be that the archive support both French and English languages or other unique storage or data center and security features.

Upgrading an EHR should include a legacy data strategy that offers clinicians a single sign-on to maintain ongoing access to the complete patient record in Canada.

Harmony Healthcare IT is ready to help.

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This blog has been updated from a previous version published Nov 11 2021

Nov 11 2021

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