MEDITECH eh – Investment in Canadian EHR Market Pays Off

When MEDITECH released their latest statistics for their Canadian operations, I was floored – 47% market share and 35 years of collaboration in Canada. I knew MEDITECH had been in the country for a long time, but I had no idea their ROOTS ran so deep [Canadian readers will get the joke].

Recently, MEDITECH sent out a press release about their Canadian success. This release caught my eye because MEDITECH is one of the few US-based EHR systems that have enjoyed long-term success in Canada. After reading the two eye-popping statistics, I immediately reached out to the company to find out more about their Canadian history and operations.

Christine Parent, Associate Vice President at MEDITECH was more than happy to sit down with me for a phone interview. We spoke about paper records, population health and the similarities/differences between the Canadian and US healthcare markets.

Below is a summary of my conversation with Parent.

When did MEDITECH enter the Canadian market?

MEDITECH started in Canada way back in 1981 with the MAGIC platform at UBC Hospital (now part of Vancouver Coastal Health).

What was it like working with Canadian hospitals back then?

Back in the 80s it was all about replacing paper records with something electronic. Getting rid of paper really resonated with pioneers and early adopters in Canada. When we started, we were one of the few EHR companies in all of Canada. It helped that we had a successful track record in the US which helped us have credibility with Canadian prospects.

Why was MEDITECH so successful in those early days?

Right from the beginning, MEDITECH recognized that we had to fully commit to being in Canada. To be successful we had to put feet on the ground and have a local presence. The company invested in Canada and hired sales reps as well as other support personnel exclusively dedicate to that region.

It really helps when people are passionate about their work. The people we hired for the Canadian market were passionate about improving Canadian healthcare and they put a lot of effort in understanding the local ecosystem.

In those early years we were the only company that had people solely dedicated to the Canadian market. Most of the other vendors treated Canadian customers (if they had any) just like their US ones, not realizing that the cultures and approach to healthcare were different. Our commitment to Canada was key to MEDITECH’s early success in the country.

Were there any early surprises in Canada?

Our initial customers were the provinces. Right from the beginning we had to address two challenges – interoperability between hospitals in the same province and the high volume of data.

Because healthcare in Canada is managed by the provincial government, they needed a system that could handle the records for every patient in the province. In the 80s there weren’t the super-sized health systems that we have today, certainly nothing approaching the volume of patients across an entire province.

For this reason, MEDITECH’s scalable database really played well in Canada. It allowed us to handle the high transactional volumes.

What’s the biggest misconception (recent) about Canadian Healthcare?

Consumerism exists in Canada! Organizations in Canada are just as demanding for features that make things easier for patients as they are for enhancements that will help their internal end-users.

Has MEDITECH’s US EHR experience helped in Canada?

In recent years, it has been an advantage to being Meaningful Use certified. Canada does not have a national EHR certification program like the US, only certain provinces do. As a result, some Canadian healthcare organizations looked to the US to see which EHRs had met the Meaningful Use criteria and created their vendor shortlists from that information.

Our US experience with ACOs is also helping us in Canada. Provincial governments are starting to roll out changes to their healthcare systems to bring the various ecosystem partners closer together. Hospitals, long-term care facilities, urgent care centers and primary care practices are now being asked to work together to deliver care. MEDITECH’s experience working with ACOs and large integrated health systems is something unique that we can offer to our Canadian customers.

What about the reverse, has MEDITECH’s Canadian experience benefited the US operations?

MEDITECH’s international customers and their individual needs have helped push the company to bring innovative tools and solutions to the market. We have advanced our products working with several of our Canadian customers, and in turn, shared those advancements with the rest of our customers.

  • Interior Health Authority has been pivotal in the development of Expanse, our company’s web-based, mobile EHR offering. Interior Health Authority was the pioneer for implementing 6.1, which later evolved into the Expanse EHR. We took the lessons learned through its implementation to modify the product and introduce Expanse.
  • Ontario Shores for Mental Health is the first behavioral health organization in the world to achieve HIMSS Stage 7. In 2014, Ontario Shores was an early adopter of the Patient Portal. The portal led to many benefits for its patients and across the organization including improved productivity with 67% of portal users more likely to attend appointments than non portal users.
  • As North America’s first fully-digital hospital, Humber River Hospital continues to challenge MEDITECH to develop consumer-grade, patient-centric solutions that enhance patient care delivery. Earlier this year, Humber River went LIVE with Expanse as part of its mission to utilize cutting-edge technology to improve efficiency and connect patient care across the continuum.

Also noteworthy, it helped that Canada (and Australia) moved to ICD-10 before the US did. This first-hand experience with the transition helped the MEDITECH team be better prepared for the US migration. Because of our international work we already knew the workflow changes, product modifications and change management that would be needed for a smooth cut-over.

Why has MEDITECH been able sustain its success in Canada over decades?

Over the years, MEDITECH has been able to engage with key government & healthcare stakeholders. Those relationships have been key to helping the company navigate the changing regulatory environment at both the provincial and federal levels.

Along the same lines, from Day 1, the company has been focused on building long-standing relationships with Canadian healthcare leaders. Through the years we have demonstrated to these leaders that MEDITECH is committed to Canada. That has earned the company a lot of credibility and trust in the market.

Having a stable product has been something that has helped MEDITECH remain at the forefront of Health IT in Canada. We have worked hard to continuously evolve our products to stay on top of the latest requirements. We have also tuned our platform to accommodate the unique needs of Canadian healthcare organizations rather than force them to conform to the way we do things in other countries.

Lastly, MEDITECH’s continued success has a lot to do with having staff dedicated to Canada. Just like our first Canadian team back in 1981, our Canadian team is passionate about improving the overall system.

What’s next for MEDITECH in Canada?

Our goal is to expand our footprint beyond the traditional hospital market. We are getting involved in home care in select provinces. We are also investing time and effort into the academic and research-based market in Canada – especially now that we have the capabilities in our Expanse platform.

MEDITECH is also adapting to the changing approaches to healthcare that are starting to roll across the country. For example, Ontario Health Teams are new (Editor’s Note: See Colin’s article on Ontario Health Teams) and we are already collaborating with our customers to ensure our platform can accommodate this new provider structure.

Finally, healthcare is becoming much more data driven. As such we anticipate more and more will be expected in terms of data harmonization and analytics. We are already working with customers and partners to add even more capabilities in this area to our platform.

About the author

Colin Hung

Colin Hung

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.