Nanaimo will be the first to hook into Island Health’s new, $178-million ‘one person, one record’ medical system, lauded as the first of its kind in the country.
IHealth, an electronic health record system, has been a decade in the making and will go online for the first time this June, building a central bank of patient information that health-care practitioners can eventually access at any Island Health facility.
Electronic health records are not new. The provincial government itself has created eHealth, which is meant to store lab results, diagnostic scans and medication histories online.
But Island Health says its initiative is different and a much larger scope than electronic health records that exist in other provinces. It’s investing $175 million over 10 years into IHealth, which is being developed in partnership with Cerner Canada and will span all facilities, program areas and geographies within the health authority – something no other existing system in the country does, it said.
Currently medical notes can exist in more than one place and health-care departments can be challenged to access patient history. The new program will eventually become a one-stop bank of patient information with the potential to chronicle a person’s medical journey from birth until death and accessible to practitioners whether a person is at Dufferin Place or walking into the emergency department at Victoria General Hospital.
While health professionals acknowledge challenges ranging from privacy concerns to the adjustment of staff to the new program, they say there will be lots of benefits for patients.
With health professionals all able to see patient information, they will know, for example, whether a pregnant mother is giving birth to her first child and doctors, nurses and occupational therapists can make good judgments on what patients are there for and what they’ve had previously, according to Suzanne Fox, who will help roll out the new system in Nanaimo as Island Health’s new executive director for the central Island and west coast.
The new system means health-care workers won’t need to ask repetitive questions or perform the same tests. Medication barcodes mean patients get the right drug at the right time, leading to fewer medication errors.
“Island residents won’t benefit until probably the fall of 2016 when the whole Island is up [on the new system], but when you’re doing such a big project like this we do know we need to do rolling activations to learn and to see where we need to make changes and enhance the system,” said Fox, who is excited about decreased medication errors and good information sharing between clinicians about patients.
The system will roll out in Nanaimo first and cover the local campus which includes the hospital and Dufferin Place residential care. Doctors’ offices are independent of Island Health and won’t automatically be included in the new system, but the authority says the electronic record will be made available if the clinics choose to adopt it. The idea is to eventually have one record and one plan for each patient, so there will no longer be some notes at a family doctor’s office and others at the hospital, says Dr. Drew Digney, executive medical director for the Central Island and west coast.
“Really what happens is there’s a central repository for your medical records that’s yours and we are all authors of that medical record,” said Digney. “That’s the vision. It’s going to take us a while to get there.”