Electronic Health Records gain ground across Canada

Toronto 23 June 2005In line with its mission to help improve health care quality by accelerating the development of Electronic Health Records, Canada Health Infoway has increased the pace of its investments and now has initiatives underway in every province and territory. In 2004-05, Infoway committed project investments of $195 million, 56 percent more than in the previous three years combined, for a total of $321 million since Infoway was created. Infoway initiated 52 new projects in 2004-05, virtually doubling its project count and bringing its cumulative total to 105 projects. These results for the year ended March 31, 2005, which surpass many of the established targets, were presented to Infoway's members at its Annual General Meeting held in Toronto on June 22, 2005.

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Also in 2004-05, Infoway made a key decision that is expected to further accelerate the pace of investment. To make it easier for provinces and territories to provide their share of the funding for Electronic Health Record projects, Infoway will now cover an average of 75 percent of project costs rather than 50 percent.

"Many challenges lie ahead, but we are starting to make a real dent with regards to achieving our mission", stated Richard Alvarez, Infoway's President and CEO. "The projects we've started this year, which will be completed over the next couple of years, will go a long way towards meeting our objective of making Electronic Health Records available for 50 percent of the population by the end of 2009", he added.

Infoway and its partners made significant progress on many initiatives in 2004-05, including projects in Southwestern Ontario and Fraser Valley, British Columbia, where large groups of hospitals share diagnostic imaging technology. "Until recently, patients at the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) had to wait about four hours for the results of their urology X-rays - just enough time for stress levels to go through the roof. Now, they're in and out within an hour or so", stated Diane Beattie, CIO of the LHSC and St.Joseph's Health Care London.

Nineteen of the new projects were based on reusing and adapting the results of successful diagnostic imaging, drug information, client registry and provider registry implementations from other parts of the country. Drug information systems provide a list of medications a patient is taking and can alert health care providers to potentially dangerous drug interactions. Client registries uniquely identify patients and can link them with the right health information, while provider registries keep track of health care professionals and serve as a basis for security systems ensuring that only authorized providers can access patient records.

Infoway continued to work closely with the provinces and territories to develop joint three-year technology and investment plans, aligning national and provincial e-Health strategies. "Infoway is really starting to become engaged on all levels with us as a province. They are adding value to our vision, strategic plans and providing additional resources. They are an enabler for Canada realizing its EHR deliverables through their positive leadership", stated Dr. Penny Ballem, Deputy Minister of Health, British Columbia.

Strengthened collaboration also lead to several provinces and territories jointly issuing or sharing requests for proposals (RFPs), thereby benefiting from volume pricing while reducing the time and risk of purchasing new information technology systems.

Infoway has now approved investment strategies for all nine Infoway programmes: Infostructure, Registries, Diagnostic Imaging, Drug Information Systems, Lab Information Systems, Telehealth, Health Surveillance, Interoperable EHR and Innovation/Adoption. Infoway approves an investment envelope for each programme and then commits funds to specific projects in each programme area.

In 2004-05, Infoway also continued to focus on interoperability ensuring that different systems can communicate with one another. It began updating the Electronic Health Record Solution (EHRS) Blueprint, which shows how different components of the EHR system can interact with one another, to include privacy and security architecture. Many jurisdictions and vendors have indicated that the Blueprint has already provided them with valuable guidance for aligning their systems with the overall EHR vision. Infoway also played a leadership role in standards development to support its focus on interoperability.

Canada Health Infoway's mission is to accelerate the development of compatible electronic health information systems across Canada. 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 healthcare 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.

Infoway will publish its objectives and priorities for 2005-06 in its Corporate Business Plan which will be available later this summer. More details about Infoway's 2004-05 achievements will be available in the corporation's annual report.


Leslie Versweyveld

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