N.S. pilot project gives 12,000 patients access to medical records through mobile app

HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia pilot project that gives residents access to their medical records through a mobile application will improve the quality of health care for patients, the premier said Tuesday.

About 12,000 patients at four Nova Scotia primary health-care clinics can now see a record of their medications, lab and diagnostic results, hospital and family doctor visits, and immunizations through the app YourHealthNS.

Premier Tim Houston said the move will “empower Nova Scotians to give them the information that they need to take better care of their own health.”

“We want them to see what has previously been unseen,” the premier added at a news conference Tuesday. 

Houston said the medical record access for these 12,000 patients will run as a pilot project until the end of March, and all Nova Scotians are expected to have mobile access to their medical records through the app by the end of June.

Tara Sampalli, senior director of global health systems planning for Nova Scotia Health, said research indicates that giving people detailed health information results in streamlined care and better communication between doctor or nurse practitioner and patient.

“There may be fewer calls to see lab results. On the other hand, people may see their lab results and say they want to ask some questions,” Sampalli said Tuesday. 

“Research shows that people become more engaged, and people may in fact start taking more proactive care” of their own health, she added. 

Dr. Aaron Smith, the medical executive director for Nova Scotia’s northern zone and a former family physician, echoed that sentiment Tuesday. 

“I firmly believe that giving patients access to their own health information is fundamental to quality and compassionate patient care,” he said.

“Patient engagement in their own health leads to a better understanding of their health conditions and better health outcomes.”

The Nova Scotia Health Authority said British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec have offered patients access to some of their health records, though the platform for sharing records and the records made available varies by province.

Health authority spokesperson Brendan Elliott said in an email Nova Scotia’s implementation is unique because it includes primary care visit information and makes the records available through a mobile application.

Nova Scotia Health’s chief information officer Scott McKenna said because no medical record information is stored within the app, the new access is not expected to increase the risk of a data breach. 

“The health records are secure to the appropriate level … I’m 100 per cent confident in that, and we’ve done the right security testing,” McKenna said.

The province spent $10 million on developing the YourHealthNS app, which was rolled out in November, and the medical record pilot project is expected to cost $2 million.

Meanwhile, the list of Nova Scotians in need of a family doctor or nurse practitioner continues to grow. As of Jan. 1, there were more than 150,000 Nova Scotians on the primary care wait-list registry, which represents about 15 per cent of the province’s population.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2024. 

Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press

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