How MEDIC made it possible for Ontarians to access their immunization records through a secure online portal

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Ontario’s Ministry of Health, in partnership with Canada Health Infoway, asked MEDIC to design a key component of Ontario’s new immunization registry: a secure online system designed for use by parents that linked directly to the public health Panorama database.

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Research Area: MEDIC
Project Funder: Ontario Ministry of Health and Canada Health Infoway

Future Ready Challenge

In Ontario, most parents are familiar with the routine of getting their kids immunized. 

The child gets a needle to protect them from a certain preventable illness; the clinician documents the vaccination by hand in the child’s yellow card immunization record, and the parent calls the local public health unit to update records. But paper tracking isn’t perfect- risks such as misplacing a yellow card, missing a scheduled vaccination, or tracking down the records of a retired doctor make the process less than seamless.

Until recently, the only way to track immunizations in Ontario was via paper. Then, in 2015, the Ontario Government released Immunization 2020: Modernizing Ontario's Publicly Funded Immunization Program, a policy report that provided the first-of-its-kind roadmap for a high-performing, integrated immunization system, including the development of an electronic provincial immunization registry.

R & D Collaboration

In Ontario, 34 Public Heath Units are responsible for administering health promotion and disease prevention programs, including immunization. Under the Immunization of School Pupils Act, all children attending school in Ontario need to be vaccinated against nine different diseases (unless exempt).

At the time of the Immunization 2020 report, public health units were using (and still use) an electronic database called Panorama that allowed individual units to track and analyze immunization coverage rates for school-aged children. However, this system didn’t provide a way for parents to submit information or look up records, without working directly with a public health staff member. 

A better system was needed and so Ontario’s Ministry of Health (then known as the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care), in partnership with Canada Health Infoway, asked MEDIC to design a key component of Ontario’s new immunization registry: a secure online system designed for use by parents and linking directly to Panorama. 

Innovative Results

MEDIC designed and built Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON), the immunization tracking point-of-service system that is currently being used by millions of parents. 

MEDIC designed ICON to be interoperable with the Panorama database. As a pan-Canadian system, Panorama uses international immunization data standards to track information and standardizes the way provinces and territories input and process immunization data. 

In addition to ensuring the interoperability of the system, MEDIC also designed ICON to be secure and comply with the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and the provincial Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).

When designing ICON, MEDIC prioritized the parent’s user experience. First of all, the system had to meet provincially legislated requirements to ensure accessibility for all users. Additionally, multiple usability studies and feedback from parents contributed to a positive experience for those navigating the system.  

Since it was launched in 2017, 32 out 34 Public Health Units have made ICON available to the public and 80% of parents in Ontario have access to ICON. User feedback has also been strong: A recent survey found it is considered secure and easy to use. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they had time savings thanks to the system, and 64% said they avoided an in-person visit.

Overall, ICON has facilitated better compliance with reporting requirements, provided parents with a more convenient tool to track their children’s immunizations and also reduced the time spent by public health staff in tracking vaccinations. 

“In the past, each health unit or public health department in the province had their own reporting system which varied widely region to region, “said Sarah Titmus, manager for the Infectious Disease and Vaccine-Preventable Disease Team at Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. “ICON offers a much more streamlined and consistent way for people to update and access their family’s records. For public health professionals who require up-to-date information in the case of an outbreak, this information is vitally important.”