Technology at Magenta Health
Our vision at Magenta Health is that technology can play a transformative role not only in the areas of medical diagnosis and treatment, but also in the delivery of health care services. In particular, we strive to use technology to, among other things:
- improve patient care,
- make us more accessible to our patients,
- reduce the overall burden on the Canadian health care system, and
- enable our physicians to safely and competently provide care to more patients.
In order to implement this vision, Magenta Health has and will continue to develop, implement, and/or deploy various technologies within our existing and future clinics. At the moment, this includes systems for online scheduling, online messaging, clinician remote access, patient and staff workflow management, patient self sign-in kiosks, and test result tracking.
The Benefits of Technology
Using online scheduling as an example, it’s informative to explore the benefits of enabling patients to schedule appointments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The most obvious benefit is that many patients find such an option more convenient. However, there are a myriad of additional benefits to various stakeholders in the healthcare system. For example:
- Unnecessary emergency room visits can be avoided by, for example, enabling patients to schedule an appointment outside business hours for first thing the following morning, thereby reducing costs on hospitals and long patient wait-times;
- Cancelled appointments can be immediately booked by other patients at all hours of the day, thereby improving patient access and reducing wasted physician clinic hours;
- Administrative staff can be diverted from answering routine phone calls to providing enhanced patient care; and
- Non-English speakers can more readily access medical care, a particular benefit in our multicultural and multilingual society.
The other systems noted above provide similarly important benefits. For example:
- Online messaging will provide patients with improved access to their physician;
- Remote access can enable physicians to better manage urgent issues that require timely follow-up;
- Patient and staff workflow management tools can reduce patient wait times; and
- Test result tracking will ensure receipt of results in a timely fashion.
Online Tools vs. Telephone Calls
With these comments in mind, Magenta Health has elected to, for the most part, make it mandatory for our patients to interact with us via online portals or forms, or in person, instead of via telephone. We appreciate that this is not standard practice but have elected to proceed in this manner after balancing a number of considerations such as:
- The advantages of online technology;
- The technical and financial feasibility of providing telephone alternatives;
- The impact on accessibility; and
- The disadvantages of telephone calls.
This last consideration is especially important. In particular, in our view:
- Telephone calls are error-prone in ways that can negatively impact patient care (e.g. messages may be misheard or mistranscribed);
- It is very difficult to accurately verify the identity of telephone callers, which is a privacy risk;
- Telephone automation is not readily available (e.g. we cannot realistically provide the option of completing complex forms by phone); and
- Reducing the number of telephone calls will enable our administrative staff to spend more time on patient care tasks, with less disruption.
In short, we believe that communicating via online forms, tools and portals is, on balance, preferable to communicating by telephone calls. Phones have been the default solution for many years, but we feel that a change is warranted in order to enable us to effectively provide improved patient care, access, and privacy.
A more detailed discussion of the reasoning behind this decision is also available here.