eHealth needs a social outlook

March 18, 2013 in Medical Technology

Andrea Cortinois is a Professor at the University of Toronto, where he teaches International Healthcare and Immigration and Healthcare. He is also part of the Center for Global E-Health Innovation, founded by the Colombian e-health expert Doctor Alejandro Jadad. Cortinois shares his colleague’s interest in what is going in Latin America, a region he is familiar with: he spent six years in Bolivia and worked in many other countries in the region as an expert in international health. On his first visit to Argentina in August 2012, invited by the Panamerican Health Organization to share his experiences working in e-health and equality, present his eSAC project and participate in a debate with local experts on possible ways to implement a national e-health plan, he was interviewed by E-Health Reporter Latin America.

EHealth Reporter Latin America: What can you share from the Canadian experience with regard to the development of e-Health?

Andrea Cortinois: The work we are doing with the University Health Network is very interesting. This is a network of four hospitals, one of which is the largest in Toronto, the General Hospital. At this center there are several work groups: one concentrates on telemedicine, another on analysis of human factors and usability, especially with regard to needs at the hospital level and the one of which I am a member together with Doctor Jadad, called People, Health Equity and Innovation Research.

EHRLA: What does this group do?

AC: We work specifically with vulnerable populations and have three lines of research: firstly, young people, because they are marginalized in many different ways; we don’t take them seriously enough. Secondly, immigrants. Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Right now half the population of Toronto are first generation immigrants who weren’t born in Canada. Traditionally the population of Toronto was Anglo-Saxon: now the Anglo-Saxon population is a minority. And in a few years, probably, white people of European origin will be a minority. Historically, the first wave of immigration came from England, then western European countries, then Italy, Portugal, Poland and other nations. Now immigration is mostly Asian, from Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Korea, and China. Immigration from Latin America is also growing. I think about 6% of the population speaks Spanish as its first language.  

EHRLA:  Is this data for legal immigrants?

AC: Yes, in the great majority. 

EHRLA: Does the healthcare system provide for them?

AC: Yes, because Canada has universal healthcare. The Canadian healthcare system is for all residents, although this doesn’t mean that all kinds of treatment are offered; for example: pharmaceuticals and many medical specialties aren’t included in the free provision. There is a package of basic fundamental services that are covered by the public health system and that are not in competition with the private sector. All basic medical services and hospital care are included.  

EHRLA: A birth, for example?

AC: A birth would absolutely be covered.

EHRLA: A heart attack?

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