A division of telecom giant Telus (TSX:T) is buying Ontario's largest electronic medical record business, increasing the number of paperless files and bringing more than 5,000 more doctors online.
Telus Health says it's acquiring MD Practice Software, part of a subsidiary of the Ottawa-based Canadian Medical Association, for an undisclosed price.
It says the move will bring the total number of doctors who use electronic medical records technology to 9,000 across the country.
Currently, the penetration rate of electronic medical records in Canada sits at roughly 56 per cent, compared with a rate of well over 90 per cent in some European countries, according to Telus Health president Paul Lepage.
He adds that the market potential for electronic records in Canada is at least $150 million to $250 million, plus other services such as wireless.
Lepage says the technology will help doctors see more patients daily and be able to e-prescribe treatment.
"The first thing the doctor is going to be doing is he'll be converting his paper records to electronic records," Lepage said in an interview.
"From a physician perspective, what that means is the ability to see more patients during the day. So they will get a productivity gain out of that."
Over time, doctors will be able to share that information, with consent, with other health-care providers. Patients can give their doctors regular updates through a patient portal on chronic diseases, for example, such as diabetes, Lepage said.
Lepage noted that about 80 per cent of doctors now use a smartphone and more and more interaction with patients will be done on the device, and on tablets.
He said electronic health records help patients take charge and is "no different than what you're doing as a consumer where you're doing your home banking, your booking travel online and ... doing your income taxes online."
Telus Health said the acquisition makes it the largest electronic medical records provider in Canada with physicians online in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and some smaller markets.
Doctors pay $3,000 to $5,000 for the electronic medical records software and some of it is reimbursed to them through provincial subsidies, Lepage said.
"We are proud of the support we have provided physicians and our involvement in the evolution of EMR (electronic medical records) platforms, assisting in fundamentally changing the nature of health care," said Mike Gassewitz, president of MD Practice Software, who is based in Ottawa.
This is the third such acquisition of an electronic medical records provider by Telus in recent months.
Last fall, Telus bought KinLogix and Wolf Medical Systems, which combined, brought 4,500 doctors online.
Telus has been using its technology in health care for a number of years and created Telus Health after it bought the former Emergis, a Montreal-based e-commerce and technology company that was an early pioneer in electronic health records.
The Vancouver-based telecom company says its secure wireless and broadband networks can be accessed by doctors and patients on personal computers, smartphones or tablets. Currently it provides and supports electronic health record solutions in nearly 60 hospitals and 3,000 pharmacies across the country.