Nova Scotia

With expansion of phone app, Nova Scotia patients can access a suite of health info

Information on hospital visits and other medical records is now available for Nova Scotians through the province’s mobile phone application called YourHealthNS.

The province is expanding access to health information through the app after a successful $2-million pilot project that launched in February involving 15 family doctors and seven nurse practitioners at six clinics, Health Minister Michelle Thompson said Wednesday.

The pilot assisted nearly 14,000 patients to access their health records through the app.

“In Nova Scotia we have chosen to embrace innovation and digital health,” Thompson said at a news conference in Halifax.

Health officials said an evaluation of the pilot found that 98 per cent of users said they would continue to use the app, while 60 per cent felt they were more involved in health-care decisions. Thirty per cent said that access to their records allowed them to skip a visit to their primary health-care provider. Later on Wednesday, Nova Scotia Health said 173 participants had completed the feedback survey.

When it was launched in November, the YourHealthNS application allowed patients to book blood tests, X-rays, flu shots and COVID-19 vaccine appointments. After the pilot project, the province decided to extend the service to everyone 16 and older with a valid health card.

Health officials, however, were not able to say Wednesday how many of the pilot’s participants actually used the app. Thompson said that was intentional. To protect people’s privacy, she said, the province won’t be tracking that kind of information.

300,000 Nova Scotians downloaded the app  

“If people want to have access to their records, that’s available to them and if they don’t then the choice is there for them to bypass,” she said. “I can’t imagine that it would be of no benefit to anybody. It is going to empower people to understand their health in a different way.”

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Officials did say that 300,000 Nova Scotians had downloaded the app since its introduction last November as a “one-stop shop” to more quickly book services, get information and find available health care.

With the new rollout, patients across the province can access information on hospital visits and stays, medications, immunizations and lab test results. Lab results will be provided for blood, urine and general medical testing, while information will also be available from diagnostic imaging scans such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans and X-rays.

Thompson said records from IWK Health are also now available, while information from visits with family doctors and nurse practitioners should be accessible on the app by the end of September.

Officials said the app was introduced at a cost of $10 million and the expansion announced Wednesday will cost another $5 million, which includes expenses related to the pilot.

Susan Leblanc, the NDP caucus spokesperson for health, said while the app will be useful, the province really needs to see progress in finding primary care providers for the 160,000 patients who are without a family doctor. As well, Leblanc said she’s concerned there will be no way to track the app’s usage.

“We need to have some metrics and some data to make sure that we know that this is a good use of public money,” she said.

‘It’s about time’

Volunteers who offered advice during the design of the app said they were excited by its potential.

“As someone with a chronic disease, it is possible for me to understand the care that I need better when I’ve got access to this information,” said Carole McDougall, who takes a variety of drugs to help her manage her rheumatoid arthritis. “So I’m thrilled.”

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She said it also puts Nova Scotia on par with other parts of the country that have been providing this service for years.

“A lot of us have family members in other provinces, and in other provinces people have access to this kind of information,” said McDougall. “So we’re lagging and it’s about time.”

Fellow volunteer Judy Porter was also excited to be able to track her blood work.

“This will be amazing to be able to go in and see that,” said Porter. “As well as the fact that often I go to the doctor and they’ll ask me a question like why aren’t you on this medication anymore?

“I don’t remember because I’m on multiple medications. I don’t have just one that I’ve been on for 15 years.”

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