There’s a troubling trend in Canada, but Choosing Wisely Canada (CWC) is on a mission to turn it around — and electronic medical records (EMRs) could help. The problem comes down to patient education: findings from a study by the Strategic Counsel of Canada show that almost a third of Canadians (32.5%) believe antibiotics can kill viruses and treat colds and flu. This misunderstanding leads them to seek antibiotics from their healthcare providers to treat symptoms of viral infection.
Increasing demands for antibiotics by cold and flu patients could be dangerous because overprescription leads to antibiotic resistance, which has become a serious issue in Canada. CWC aspires to improve awareness about the risks of unnecessary antibiotic use and to support clinicians in this effort; and it has found an ally in TELUS Health.
CWC’s mission is to prevent unnecessary tests and treatments in order to protect patients, improve resource utilization, and reduce the healthcare industry’s carbon footprint.
To change how people think about cold, flu, and other common respiratory infections — the majority of which are viral — and to inform the practitioners diagnosing and treating them, CWC needed to communicate with care providers and patients efficiently, effectively, and at scale. Paper handouts and flyers were not doing the trick, and EMRs proved to be a promising solution.
EMRs elevate care practice and patient experience
EMRs streamline end-to-end processes for care teams and their communities by safely digitizing information, automating administrative processes, and delivering intuitive user experiences. A truly best-in-class EMR:
- Is easy to adopt and integrates seamlessly with existing software systems
- Enables care providers to do more without adding an administrative burden
- Keeps patients informed and engaged before, during, and after their care
In collaboration with TELUS Health, CWC embarked on a trial to see how EMRs could help spread the word about the problem of prescribing antibiotics for respiratory viruses. To do this, they launched their initiative on two different systems: TELUS Health’s PS Suite and Collaborative Health Record (CHR).
Introducing “The Cold Standard” to drive awareness
“The Cold Standard” is a set of CWC recommendations for combatting the rise of antibiotic resistance and protecting patients from the side effects of these powerful medications. Starting in late 2021, the CWC and TELUS Health pilot project leveraged EMR documentation to share these recommendations with care providers and recipients.
This included provider-facing guidelines for point of care, which were incorporated directly into their standard EMR documentation templates. Meanwhile, patient education tools were made accessible through the platform as documents that could be shared after appointments, or built into intake forms and pre-appointment questionnaires. This allowed CWC to share important information through care providers without negatively impacting providers’ workflows.
Positive results for CWC, practitioners, and patients
When it comes to The Cold Standard, the CHR appears to be the gold standard. Preliminary analysis from the pilot suggests that the technology’s automated patient engagement capabilities have made it the more effective EMR system for delivering health information to users. Results showed the CHR achieved higher patient update without placing additional demands on clinicians or interrupting their usual workflow. In fact, participants in the pilot gave such positive feedback that The Cold Standard has since been deployed in clinics across five provinces and become part of our core clinical content offering to clients. Additionally, TELUS Health is working with CWC to investigate how additional recommendations can be incorporated into EMRs and to drive efficiency for clinicians.