New electronic tools to benefit mental health and addictions clients

Victoria 18 May 2006The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) will be the first health care organisation in Canada to use technology to support mental health and addictions clinicians and clients to make the most informed decisions about their care, according to VIHA CEO Howard Waldner. With the help of a $1,8 million investment from Canada Health Infoway's Innovation and Adoption programme, VIHA will implement electronic tools to match clients with mental health and addictions challenges with the most appropriate care in the community.


"Electronic health initiatives are improving and modernizing the delivery of better, faster and safer health care", stated Health Minister George Abbott. "British Columbia is leveraging investment and partnership opportunities from Canada Health Infoway to lead the country in developing electronic health information systems and we may see achievements in British Columbia replicated in other jurisdictions."

"We are very grateful for Canada Health Infoway's investment in this innovative project", Howard Waldner stated. "By leveraging VIHA's electronic health record system and introducing new Web-based decision support technology, we can provide our clinicians with comprehensive information at the point of care, allowing them to make the best possible treatment decisions based on their clients' needs."

As in many other Canadian jurisdictions, VIHA clinicians do not currently have a standardized method for identifying and recording clients' needs and risks, nor do they have access to an inventory of services available in the community. With paper-based processes still being used to document clinical information and refer clients to community-based services, transfer of critical health information and treatment can be delayed.

"This is a remarkable example of electronic tools supporting the needs of patients with acute or chronic conditions", stated Richard Alvarez, Infoway's President and CEO. "This innovative solution will help reduce wait times and lead to more appropriate care and could serve as a model for other jurisdictions across the country", he added.

With Infoway's investment, VIHA's Mental Health and Addictions Services team and Information Management/Information Technology staff will work closely with two of their existing technology providers, Cerner and Strata Health Solutions, to develop standardized electronic assessments forms and decision support tools specific to mental health and addictions needs. Clinicians will document a client's assessments in Cerner's PowerChart tool. Using that information, Strata Health's Web-based Strata PathWays' tool will provide access to a real-time inventory of mental health and addictions services available in the community that meet the needs of the specific client. VIHA expects it will take approximately 24 months to develop, test and implement the new electronic tools and train staff to use the new technology.

Strata PathWays is part of the British Columbia eHealth initiative to build an integrated, electronic system that improves outcomes for patients by making their specific information available in hospitals, doctor's offices - wherever and whenever they need to seek health care services.

Strata Health Solutions is a privately held Canadian corporation that is a provider of patient flow solutions and information technology advancement within the health care sector. Cerner is a supplier of health care information technology, with more than 1500 clients worldwide.

Canada Health Infoway has conditionally agreed to allocate up to approximately $120 million for eHealth initiatives in British Columbia between 2005/06 and 2008/09. The British Columbia Ministry of Health is investing an additional $30 million over the same period to support the development of eHealth initiatives that will help health professionals deliver better, faster and safer patient care.

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, healthcare system offering improved quality, accessibility and productivity.

More news on eHealth investments in British Columbia is available in this VMW issue's article $150 million investment in eHealth to improve patient care in British Columbia.

Leslie Versweyveld

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