Co-op and Credit Union Community Creates Innovative Online Health Clinic

Co-op and Credit Union Community Creates Innovative Online Health Clinic

Nova Scotia’s HealthConnex aims to be part of the health-care solution

Web-based health care clinic HealthConnex was sparked four years ago with the realization that co-ops and credit unions had an opportunity to be part of the health-care solution and provide members with enhanced services, says Dianne Kelderman.

Dianne, president and CEO of the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council, says it was while she was lying awake at 4 a.m. that the seed of the idea was formed.

This led to research and consultation with the council’s medical community members to understand government rules and policies and the writing of a business case.

Dianne says they spent a year trekking across Nova Scotia meeting with co-op and credit union boards presenting the case for them to invest in the health care project, and raised $3 million in equity.

The result is HealthConnex, Canada’s first and only online health-care clinic. Being a patient in the online clinic is similar to being a patient in a doctor’s physical clinic, says Dianne.

Through the online portal, patients can access a pre-approved medical library, read frequently asked questions, learn about different kinds of disease management and chat with peers through a chat room.

HealthConnex also features a connection between patients and their family physician. The physician can do an e-consult and talk to the patient online. Patients can get prescription renewals from their family doctor, and book their own appointments.

“The notion behind HealthConnex is that doctors and patients will be able to have information distributed in ways that they would like to have it,” says Nova Scotia family physician, Faculty of Medicine Dalhousie professor and former director of Medical Informatics Dr. David Zitner.

He notes in many places, when patients go for a routine test they either have to go back to the doctor’s office for the results or assume it came back normal, without knowing if something got lost.

“But in a normal world, someone would be able to send your information to you electronically without your having to make an office visit,” he says.

David adds another aspect unique to health care is most doctors won’t communicate over the phone or electronically.

“In some ways we have kind of a medieval medical system,” he says.

David says people go to the doctor for one of four reasons; to feel better, to do more, to live longer, and to receive health information. When the doctor provides a treatment it is easy to record but that doesn’t happen, he adds.

“Something like HealthConnex would enable people to link health care activities to the results that follow,” he says, adding this idea is similar to having an Air Miles card that tracks people’s habits and can provide useful interventions.

Dianne says HealthConnex is impacting wait times. Through qualitative feedback, she says they have heard the portal is impacting the use of emergency rooms for non-acute issues as people are able to deal with their own family doctor anytime.

HealthConnex is a co-operative, owned by co-op and credit unions that invested in the project. The co-operative acquired a private company that owns a billing engine used by doctors called Medical Office Management.

Having been out for a year and a half, HealthConnex is not yet in every region of the province. Dianne says the provincial Department of Health had a RFP out to develop personal health records for all Nova Scotians, and HealthConnex was the only company based in the province to place a bid.

“Our goal is not only to roll it out across Nova Scotia but to roll it out Canada-wide to our co-op and credit union partners,” says Dianne.

She says the aim is to have co-operative and credit union members be part of the solution for health care based on personal ownership, personal responsibility and community ownership.

“We’re excited that we’re a part of something that’s really big and exciting like creating solutions in health care,” she says.

Dianne says the hope is co-op and credit union members see HealthConnex as a member privilege.

“Over time we hope that it actually impacts health outcomes, that people are healthier and are dealing with issues so that their health outcomes are better in the future,” she says.

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Jennifer Neutel

Jennifer Neutel is a Story Advocate and Generative Journalist at Axiom News. She completed her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2006, and joined Axiom News in 2007. She has taken on a variety of roles at Axiom including new social media intiatives and has a passion for creating strengths-based questions that can lead to positive change.

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