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Focus on eHealth   |  September 11, 2008  

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Towards better healthcare records

Modern electronic health records will be more efficient, of higher quality and will boost patient safety

In a fast-paced society, which prides itself on productivity and efficiency, people have come to expect government services such as healthcare to advance technologically at the same rate as communications, financial services and transportation. So, in order for healthcare service providers across Canada to continue delivering high-quality patient care in an efficient manner, the implementation of electronic health (eHealth) services has become absolutely essential.

“We walk up to an instant teller machine in the banking community and have access to all of our personal financial data,” says Wayne Gudbranson, CEO of Branham Group Inc., “but the same is not true for the healthcare system.”

But changes are certainly upon us. “The opportunities in eHealth are enormous,” says Gudbranson. “Today patients still carry handwritten prescriptions from their doctor to the pharmacy, and they can contain a lot of inaccuracies, but that will be taken care of when the doctor is able to electronically enter the information into a centralized server and store the same information on the patient’s health card.”

For the past three years, Branham has been chronicling the use of ICT in the healthcare industry with a focus on the acute care marketplace (hospitals). Currently, it is expanding the scope of this research across the continuum of care from primary care (physicians) through continuing care. Branham vice-president and eHealth practice lead Mary Atkinson says, “The idea of the interoperable electronic health record (EHR) is to address the various silos of information and disciplines so that care delivered at various levels will be more efficient, of higher quality and address patient safety issues.”

According to COACH, Canada’s Health Informatics Association, one of the essential components necessary to support growing eHealth initiatives is the quantity and quality of trained professionals able to implement and deliver on the evolving eHealth agenda.

“Today, our limiting factor is certainly people more so than it is money,” says the organization’s CEO, Don Newsham.” Currently COACH is implementing a health informatics human resources sector study in order to determine how many people are working in the industry and how many are actually needed. As well, COACH is implementing a health informatics career development program looking at various career pathways and competencies as they apply to jobs within the eHealth sector.

“We are beyond having to prove the strategic importance of using eHealth as a lever and tool to modernize, transform and sustain the healthcare system in Canada,” says Newsham. “Now what we require is a professionalism agenda that will support getting that job done.”

Opening doors to better healthcare delivery

Bell works to deliver patient information at the point of care

As demand on the current healthcare system across Canada continues to grow, provincial governments and healthcare providers have come to realize that traditional systems are no longer sufficient. The need to move toward electronic health (eHealth) is absolutely necessary, explains Stephane Boisvert, President, Bell Enterprise Group.

“Providing more resources is not the answer to the ongoing improvement in the quality of care demanded by healthcare professionals,” he says. “Enabling the availability of patient information at the time care is being delivered and treatment decisions are being made is the key.”

Bell Canada has recognized the growing demand for eHealth services and has established the Bell Centre for Healthcare Innovation (BCHI), combining the expertise of healthcare practitioners, business professionals and technology specialists.

“The BCHI works across all of the traditional Bell channels to bring forth a continuum of care solutions for key stakeholders, from professional organizations to the Canadian consumer,” explains Boisvert.

Bell’s healthcare vision encompasses four critical elements that support its role as a key player in the eHealth market. These include access to and transformation of healthcare information; improvements to the overall productivity of the healthcare system; ongoing improvements to quality care and patient safety; and a flexible and reliable information technology infrastructure.

“When you look at our business, there are a number of areas that are of interest to us where we believe we can provide value to eHealth strategy,” says Boisvert. “The first is healthcare repositories.”

The second and increasingly important area of service provided by Bell is privacy and security. “We have the largest security practice in Canada,” explains Boisvert. “We built and continue to manage Canada’s national security infrastructure, the Government of Canada’s online services for citizens, and Emergency 911.” This expertise is used to ensure the secure movement of private patient healthcare information.

Another area of focus is Health Information Exchange, which involves the strategic planning and implementation for integration and interoperability of disparate systems and data streams across multiple sites and organizations. This service enables the sharing of electronic health information and the real-time monitoring of clinical activity and processes.

In providing the infrastructure for these secure data storage facilities as well as the communications access to these facilities, Bell enables healthcare system composites to safely store and access information in the form of electronic health records. Bell has worked closely with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) to design a physician decision support solution that encompasses the ongoing monitoring of data from multiple sources. “Information is fed into a repository that will be able to identify clinical issues and trends which, on their own, may not alert a caregiver to a potential problem, but once seen together may raise a flag in advance of a potential crisis,” adds Boisvert.

While providing Point of Care Applications and Devices, Bell is opening doors to innovative eHealth opportunities that can improve hospital workflow, ensure quality patient care, and allow for the safe and efficient gathering and management of information. “These services include Bedside Terminals, Telehealth and Collaboration tools, Event/Service/Alert Management Systems and Chronic Disease Management Programs to name a few,” says Boisvert.

In Ontario, Bell is developing an e-referral program which will ultimately improve the referral process in the community into the regional cancer centre. “By automating the collection of information, scheduling and the monitoring of first visits across multiple systems in the community, at the primary care level and at the referral level, the system will have a significant impact on wait times,” says Boisvert.

In Quebec, Bell has worked with the Santa Cabrini Hospital to deploy a Nortel Unified Communications Solution which will provide wireless, voice, data and patient monitoring services hospital-wide over one common, “clinical-grade” network. Alerts, notifications, vital signs and electrocardiogram can be delivered to clinicians on BlackBerrys and on other wireless devices.

In Alberta, Bell has traditionally deployed the high-speed backbone provincially and is now looking at how the network can be expanded to work with Electronic Medical Records (EMR) to enable a secure, real-time exchange of data. 

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Navigating e-health waters: the need for an experienced guide

Cerner emphasizes experience and partnership to move the implementation bar

With a user-base of more than 6,000 clients in 17 countries worldwide, Cerner is a proven provider of healthcare information technology (HIT). Cerner has played an active role in moving the Canadian healthcare system from paper to electronic records since 1985. More than 25 Canadian clients have experienced first-hand the benefits of the unified, person-centric Cerner Millennium architecture.

“Our successes at London Health Sciences Centre are directly related to our use of technology to make our processes more effective, to create designated standards and to provide caregivers with efficient workflows,” said Diane Beattie, London Health Sciences Centre Integrated Vice President and Chief Information Officer. “The Cerner Millennium system has been absolutely critical and pivotal to these improvements.”

Cerner Millennium unifies clinical, financial and operational information to create a single data repository in patient electronic medical records. The Cerner Millennium platform includes more than 60 solutions designed to automate healthcare practices for organizations ranging in size from independent physician offices to entire countries. By the end of 2010, more than $2 billion will have been dedicated to the continuing research and development of the Cerner Millennium architecture.

“Cerner’s ability to leverage its extensive experience delivering healthcare information technology allows us to share best practices from around the world with our clients,” said Jim Shave, Cerner Canada president. “We’re proud to have been an integral part of Canada’s vision to improve healthcare through the use of technology since 1985.”

For more information, contact Aja Hardy, Marketing Manager at 816.201.2415 or  

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