Over the past six months, Telus Health has seen tremendous adoption of its technology solutions across the board to meet the healthcare needs of Canadians during these unprecedented times.
The importance of collaboration has never been more at the forefront of healthcare than it is now. The ability to breakdown silos through the use of technology is what will help ensure all Canadians have access to care and foster broader adoption across the system – the foundation of which is a trusted network that spans across the country.
To learn more, I spoke with Charles Lewis, CTO at Telus Health. Charles is a brilliant thinker with 25 years of technology and health information leadership experience and understands the importance of investing in a strong network to support better access to healthcare. As the CTO, every day he experiences firsthand how Canada’s healthcare system is evolving and the increased need for digital health technologies to drive more efficiencies in information sharing as well as streamline processes and communication, all while keeping health data safe and secure.
Charles and his team leverage the power of Telus’ world-class network and the company’s security by design philosophy to enable faster, more effective workflow, communication and collaboration among healthcare professionals, group benefits providers and Canadians themselves.
Here he shares more about Telus Health’s open application interface programming (API)-based ecosystem – the Telus Health Exchange, and how it’s helping to revolutionize healthcare across the country.
Brian: Why is technology so important to the Canadian healthcare system, especially when it comes to collaboration?
Charles: “At Telus Health, we believe care is best delivered through collaborative action and communication across the complete healthcare continuum. The reality is that our current system can be quite fractured, with provinces and individual programs working in silos simply because that’s how resources are set up.
Imagine someone travelling to another province and needing medical care. The clinicians in that province won’t have access to the individual’s medical records. If the patient is incoherent or unconscious, they won’t be able to provide their medical history to those treating them, which could impact their care. Many Canadians don’t feel they have control over their health information and are unable to carry that information with them.
What we are trying to do is tear down some of those silos to make way for a more complete healthcare experience. Technology is incredibly important in fostering collaboration and information sharing. Our solutions are not just about providing tools but building connectivity.
At Telus Health, our goal has always been to leverage the power of technology to drive improved health outcomes for Canadians. While our solutions are mostly used by healthcare professionals and group benefits providers, our goal at the end of the day is to support everyday Canadians and enable them to have greater control over their healthcare experience.”
Brian: As a telecommunications and health IT company, how is Telus Health enabling better collaboration within Canada’s healthcare system?
Charles: “As a dynamic, leading communications and information technology company, we have a world-class network infrastructure that connects millions of Canadians each day. Our expertise is in connectivity that is consistent, reliable and secure — all critically important factors when considering the safe and efficient management of healthcare information. Today, we are Canada’s largest healthcare IT provider.
Over the last decade, Telus Health has played a key role in transforming healthcare in Canada by building the digital backbone necessary for a more seamless flow of information between physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals; as well as insurers and large enterprises providing health benefits to and processing claims for employees. That type of collaboration enables all key players to take a more holistic and data-driven approach to wellness, improving overall health outcomes while empowering Canadians to actively participate in their care.
As well, our technologies leverage the security of the Telus network so patient data is kept on home soil. We understand the concerns Canadians have about the privacy and management of health information which is why we have strong privacy policies as well as private and rigorous data governance processes to ensure patient data remains safe, secure and confidential. All health information is also transmitted using encryption mechanisms that meet, and in some cases exceed, the highest industry-recognized standards. Personal data is never shared with any other organization without a patient’s consent, and are held with technical and organizational security in compliance with the maintenance of Canadian health records.
An important example of how our innovative technologies support the healthcare system is the Telus Health Exchange (THX) platform. This national, standards-based, open electronic communication platform is designed to support collaboration and facilitate better communication within the healthcare system. It smooths out the rough edges and ties the often disparate, siloed endpoints of our system together, bringing more efficiency to healthcare professionals while delivering effective care to patients.”
Brian: As a developer of health IT solutions yourself, why is it important to support the acceleration of innovation in healthcare and how does the Telus Health Exchange (THX) platform enable that?
Charles: “Innovation and great discovery don’t happen in a vacuum. We recognized early on that in order to keep moving the needle on digital health technologies and take significant steps towards our goal of supporting better health outcomes, we needed to find a way to connect the many niche but innovative technology players.
Beyond supporting our own technologies, the THX connects Telus Health to innovative third-party systems and to one another to create a complete, complementary and open network that delivers a vast array of new digital tools for the healthcare community. With the THX platform, we have paved the way for the creation of a truly interconnected healthcare and innovation ecosystem.
With its open architecture and the Telus Health application interface programming (API), the THX platform is allowing the brightest minds with the most forward-thinking solutions to tap into a larger network of healthcare professionals, improving access to information and exposing their technology to real-world use while managing the security and privacy that is critical to health information. Partners can create new applications that integrate into Telus Health solutions using shared components, helping to easily onboard new external vendors and suppliers while bringing innovative solutions to those on the front lines.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also shone a light on the need for accelerated innovation in healthcare. It showed us just how quickly silos can hurt people, with the scale and pace of the pandemic outrunning our ability to share information across provincial borders. We heard from governing bodies and other partners in the healthcare space that they needed better and faster access to information to make data-driven decisions, like whether or not to implement physical distancing policies. If we work together, we can improve connectivity to accelerate much-needed information sharing during these difficult times.”
Brian: What are some examples of how the THX platform enhances the workflow and information sharing among healthcare professionals and payers to ultimately improve the delivery of patient care?
Charles: “Our healthcare professionals, as well as insurance providers, use various solutions to complete their daily tasks — from a physicians’ electronic medical record (EMR) to a pharmacist’s management system and even health benefits management solutions. In an ideal, efficient and well-connected world, all of these should be able to speak to each other to facilitate the accurate and timely transfer of information.
Through the THX, we are able to bring these services together in a unified way, enabling them to securely communicate with each other and creating a well-connected ecosystem that benefits all members of the care continuum, but most importantly, the patients. It brings speed and agility to an industry that still relies on outdated technology, like fax machines.
For example, the THX allows a personal health record (PHR) platform to be integrated with other services, such as an EMR that physicians use to manage patient information. When a physician updates a patient’s EMR, those changes are reflected simultaneously in a PHR that the patient can access.
Similarly, the THX also enables more efficient communication between physicians and pharmacists through e-prescription services like PrescribeIT. A physician can create a patient prescription using their EMR, and electronically send it to the patient’s pharmacy of choice, received through the pharmacy management system (PMS). The integration offered by a service like PrescribeIT also enables pharmacists to electronically request prescription renewals and allow physicians to cancel or check on the status of prescriptions at any time.
It even allows the use of eClaims services, delivery of referrals, secure messaging between healthcare professionals and patients, and integrated virtual care services that enable remote consultations.
With a holistic and accessible approach to care management, the THX provides an integrated platform that empowers both healthcare professionals and patients to fully engage in the care journey, helping to ensure the best possible health outcomes.”
Brian: As we continue to strive for improved interoperability and collaboration within the healthcare system, what role do you think Telus Health will play in continuing that trajectory?
Charles: “Telus Health is uniquely positioned to accelerate collaboration within the healthcare system not just through the connectivity offered by the THX, but more importantly because of our deep ongoing commitment to the patient experience across the health system as well as Telus’ globally-recognized privacy and security by design approach.
We offer pan-Canadian solutions to virtually every facet of the healthcare continuum, from primary care EMRs to pharmacy management systems, claims adjudication, home health care, and virtual care offerings. Our ability to understand and improve the patient journey through our partners, as well as understanding their needs, desires, and pain points, will allow us to contribute greatly to bridging gaps across care offerings.
As trusted advisors to our partners within the provincial health systems, medical associations and governing bodies, we can serve as the catalyst to break down silos, deliver connectivity and advocate for the best possible care for all Canadians.”