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Ontario falls short of goal to digitize all health records by end of 2015

Despite a 2015 deadline for all patients to have an electronic health record, only two-thirds of Ontarians have a digital medical file as the year draws to a close, according to the latest figures from eHealth Ontario.

The agency was created in September 2008 to bring Ontario's health records into the digital age by this year.

But just a year after that work began, eHealth was engulfed in a spending scandal that the province's former auditor general said cost taxpayers $1 billion.

The eHealth scandal created a setback in the timeline. But the CEO of OntarioMD, the agency owned by the Ontario Medical Association that's contracted by the government to get doctors hooked up to the eHealth system, says it has made "great strides" since 2009.

About 80 per cent of family doctors have, or are in the process of moving to, electronic medical files, and records are now routinely transferred electronically from hospitals.

"Most hospitals now send computerized summaries of your stay to your family doctor immediately after you're discharged," Sarah Hutchison told CBC News.

This is "hugely important" for patients to receive quality care, she says.

Millions of diagnostic imaging exams, including CT scans, X-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs and mammograms are stored in "diagnostic imaging repositories," according to a statement from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Every emergency room in the province can access the full medication history of each senior citizen, and every hospital can share diagnostic images and reports electronically within their region.

Patients suffering brain trauma, including stroke, can access a consultation with a specialist 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

However, the province's massive health system is still not entirely linked electronically, which Health Minister Eric Hoskins acknowledged in a statement to CBC News.

"We are proud of the progress we have made and we know that, working together with hospitals and clinicians, we can continue to leverage technology to improve care for patients," Hoskins said, noting that electronic medical records can have a "significant impact" on patients and physicians.

In the fall, Hoskins ordered a review of eHealth's mandate as part of what the ministry says is a "regular process" of reviewing provincial agencies.

There is no timeline for the review's completion.

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