Technology and health care leaders come together to resolve incompatibility in exchanging information

Toronto 13 October 2004Canadian health care and technology communities have founded Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) Canada, an initiative to facilitate sharing of patient information across different facilities, which can result in better health care for Canadians. IHE Canada becomes part of a growing worldwide movement that, for the last six years, has been working to remove incompatibility barriers that impede the effective flow of clinical and administrative data in health care.


Bernard Courtois, president and CEO of ITAC, the Information Technology Association of Canada, one of the lead participants in creating IHE Canada, explained: "Health information comes from a broad array of sources such as computers, diagnostic machinery, patient monitoring equipment and so on. Standards are in place to help ensure the various parts work together. But at the working level, there's been recognition for some time that standards alone don't guarantee the interoperability of all sources of data."

Normand Laberge, CEO of the Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR) and founding participant of IHE Canada, added: "Efficient sharing of patient data puts critical information in the hands of health care providers more quickly and easily, enabling better informed and faster diagnoses and treatment for patients."

Richard Alvarez, CEO of Canada Health Infoway, another founding participant of IHE Canada, explained: "IHE is a catalyst in promoting interoperable health care systems and clinical data. This work takes us one step closer to fulfilling the vision of an effective Electronic Health Record in Canada, a vision that will lead to a safer, better quality and more cost-efficient health care system."

IHE Canada brings together a large group of volunteer experts including health care providers, information technologists, academics and the IT vendor community who define practical solutions where medical equipment and IT applications can better operate together. This is particularly challenging today as there are several incompatible national and/or international standards for information exchange.

The creation of IHE Canada was made possible through the collaboration of its founding participants, including the Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR), ITAC, Canada Health Infoway (Infoway), Canadian Healthcare Information Technology Trade Association (CHITTA), Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Ontario (HIMSS), Ecole de Technologie Supérieure (ETS) and the Ontario Hospital eHealth Council.

Canada Health Infoway's mission is to accelerate the development and adoption of compatible electronic health information systems. These systems provide health care professionals with rapid access to complete and accurate patient information, enabling better decisions about treatment and diagnosis. The result is a sustainable, more cost-efficient health care system offering improved patient safety and better quality of care. Infoway is an independent, not-for-profit corporation whose members are the federal, provincial and territorial deputy ministers of health.

The Canadian Association of Radiologists is an advocate for the improvement of health care in Canada, especially accessibility and quality of patient care, by developing, promoting and continuously improving standards of radiological practice. It represents the 2000 Canadian Radiologists and acts as an advocate for Canadian Radiological interests through the active collection and communication of information, issues and trends to decision makers and patients in Canada.

The Canadian Healthcare Information Technology Trade Association represents the interests of ICT companies who deliver products and services to the Canadian Healthcare community. Its mission is to strengthen the competitiveness of Canada's Health care Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry through cooperative efforts among and between members and through direct and collaborative contact with all levels of government and associated agencies efforts.

The Ecole de Technologie Supérieure, an engineering school for industry, is part of the Université du Québec network. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, ETS is renowned for training professional engineers who stand out for their practical and innovative approach. ETS professors are pursuing research projects through various chairs, centres, teams, groups and laboratories, thus contributing to scientific progress, development of new technologies and their transfer to industry. ETS is specialized in biomedical engineering and health care informatics research activities.

HIMSS Ontario Chapter represents HIMSS in Canada. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society is the health care industry's membership organisation exclusively focused on providing leadership for the optimal use of health care information technology and management systems for the betterment of human health. Founded in 1961 with offices in Chicago, Washington D.C., and other locations across the country, HIMSS represents more than 14.000 individual members and some 220 member corporations that employ more than 1 million people. HIMSS frames and leads health care public policy and industry practices through its advocacy, educational and professional development initiatives to promote information and management systems' contributions to ensuring quality patient care.

ITAC is the voice of the Canadian information technology industry. Together with its partner organisations across the country, the association represents 1300 companies in the computing and telecommunications hardware, software, services, and electronic content sectors. This network of companies accounts for more than 70 percent of the 542.000 jobs, $132,6 billion in revenue, $5,3 billion in R&D expenditure and $36 billion in exports that IT contributes annually to the Canadian economy.

The Ontario Hospital eHealth Council was established to provide hospital industry leadership in eHealth and support the implementation of eHealth solutions which can improve health outcomes and the management and delivery of care across the entire health system. The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care funds the Council.

Leslie Versweyveld

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