Telus to acquire electronic medical records provider, bring more doctors online

MONTREAL – 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 another 5,500 doctors online.

Telus Health said Tuesday that it’s acquiring MD Practice Software, part of a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association, for an undisclosed price.

The Vancouver telecom said the acquisition will bring the total number of doctors who use its 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, said Telus Health president Paul Lepage.

He added that the market potential for electronic records in Canada is at least $150 million to $250 million, plus other services such as wireless.

Lepage said 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.

Dr. Richard Birtwhistle, a family medicine professor at Queen’s University, said costs and the ability to adapt to the new system are some factors that hold doctors back from using electronic medical records

“Having this new tool in your office that you think is going to make a huge difference also takes a lot of work to learn and a lot of work for your staff to learn,” Birtwhistle said from Kingston, Ont.

He said electronic medical records give doctors the potential to provide better care for their patients and the ability to look up records no matter where they are in the province.

There are privacy concerns and the level of access that patients would have to these records, noted Birtwhistle, who has been using electronic records for a number of years.

But electronic records often have several layers of password protection “whereas if you walk into a doctor’s office the charts are often right there,” he said.

Telus Health said 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.

This 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 will pay $3,000 to $5,000 for the electronic medical records software, with some of reimbursed to them through provincial subsidies, said the company.

“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.

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 (TSX:T) 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 has 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.