$150 million investment in eHealth to improve patient care in British Columbia

Victoria 01 May 2006Patient care will be improved and modernized throughout British Columbia with the investment of $150 million towards eHealth initiatives, announced Health Minister George Abbott at the opening of a national eHealth conference in Victoria. Canada Health Infoway, a national, independent organisation which invests in electronic health record systems across Canada in partnership with provinces and territories, has conditionally agreed to allocate up to approximately $120 million to British Columbia for eHealth initiatives between 2005/06 and 2008/09. The Ministry of Health is providing an additional $30 million over the same period.

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"This investment will promote major transformation and modernization in the health care system, providing better care for patients and maximizing the return on taxpayers' investment", stated Minister Abbott. "We are building on the success of our eHealth strategy so that health professionals are able deliver faster, more effective treatments to patients through new information technology and telehealth. With the most relevant and accurate patient information at their fingertips, health professionals can make the best possible decisions about patient treatment and diagnosis."

"The progress underway in British Columbia will contribute to Infoway's goal of ensuring that 50 percent of the Canadian population benefits from an Electronic Health Record by the end of 2009", stated Infoway's President and CEO Richard Alvarez. "British Columbia's eHealth strategy sets forth a comprehensive and ambitious roadmap designed to help transform the health care system", he added.

British Columbia's eHealth strategy comprises 22 projects grouped into nine areas - primary care, hospital care, home and community care, public health, laboratories, pharmacies, diagnostic imaging, telehealth, and foundational projects - that will build an integrated, electronic record of a patient's journey through the health system.

One of the most notable eHealth successes has been in the Fraser Health. Through a shared diagnostic imaging project, staff and physicians are able to electronically capture and share patient X-rays, MRIs and CT exams across 12 hospitals. Projects like this one result in better patient care, make the best use of radiologists time and provide long-term cost savings throughout the system. This project is one of the biggest of its kind in Canada.

eHealth initiatives underway also include:

  • Expanding access to existing programmes such as PharmaNet to doctors' offices, so that doctors can immediately access prescription information for patients;
  • Developing a province-wide electronic laboratory information system;
  • Expanding telehealth videoconferencing capabilities to improve access to specialist care for people living in remote and rural communities.

A primary component of the province's eHealth strategy is safeguarding patient information. The provincial government is committed to ensuring that patient privacy and confidentiality is protected at the highest levels possible. Legislation is in place to protect personal privacy and is being strengthened further with recent amendments that were developed in consultation with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Minister Abbott also released British Columbia's eHealth Strategic Framework, which outlines how eHealth initiatives will improve patient care, assist health professionals deliver better, faster and safer care as well as the benefits to the health system.

Infoway is an independent not-for-profit organisation that invests with public sector partners across Canada to implement and reuse compatible health information systems which support a safer, more efficient health care system. 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, health care system offering improved quality, accessibility and productivity. More Infoway news can be found in the VMW May 2006 article E-health key to health system improvements in Canada and Infoway's positive impact on interoperable electronic health records.


Leslie Versweyveld

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