Innovative solution at the Scarborough Hospital facilitates triage of emergency room patients

Toronto 12 March 2007The Scarborough Hospital and Canada Health Infoway have launched a new initiative to improve emergency room (ER) service. Through kiosks in the emergency waiting room at both hospital campuses, patients will be able to enter information in seven different languages, helping to facilitate more effective triage. Called "Enhancing Emergency Services: A Patient-Centred Approach" (EES), the initiative aims to better support nurses and physicians with smart tools so they can work more efficiently and effectively to enhance patient flow and improve patient care.


"Our staff is the backbone of our emergency department, serving over 300 patients daily", stated Dr. Hugh Scott, President and CEO of the Scarborough Hospital. "What's great about this system is not only that it benefits our staff and physicians but also our ER patients by allowing them more direct involvement with their care, enabling more accurate triage and providing better access to appropriate care."

These patient-centred information systems will assist patients in communicating their status to ER staff and physicians as they wait in emergency waiting rooms. An alert will pop-up on the nurses' screen each time a patient updates information. "Patients now have the option to play even more of an active role in their care process during unavoidable waiting time", added Dr. Scott. "Also, the new e-triage tool will assist staff with the patient re-assessment process and reprioritization of care as needed."

The user-friendly kiosks are available in English, but will also feature interfaces in seven different languages including English, French, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Tamil, Punjabi, Farsi, Hindi and Urdu. Patients are asked a number of questions in their native language and can choose answers from a comprehensive list. The system then translates the information into English for use by the care providers. It is estimated that approximately half of the patients at the Scarborough Hospital speak English as a second language.

"It's good to see hospitals, like the Scarborough Hospital, willing to consider innovative approaches to improve the access to care for their patients", stated George Smitherman, Minister Health and Long-Term Care. "It will be interesting to see how this system develops and how effectively it assists patients seeking care in the emergency department."

"Since the Scarborough Hospital serves a diverse community and a high volume of patients, they are a good test ground for this new approach to improve patient triage", stated Richard Alvarez, President and CEO, Canada Health Infoway. "The system could eventually serve as a model for other emergency departments in the country", he added. Infoway is investing $1,5 million dollars in this pilot project, approximately half of the project's total cost.

The new technology will capture more detailed data from patients, process that information and provide it to the nurses and physicians. The Centre for Global e-Health Innovation, University of Toronto Healthcare Resource Modelling Laboratory, the University of Alberta eTRIAGE Solution and Medisolve, are also partners in this project.

"The system is designed to enhance aspects of our ER service for patients without increasing staff or enlarging facilities. We focus on patient-centred care. We expect to achieve even greater staff and patient satisfaction with this new solution", stated Dr. Scott.

The Scarborough Hospital, Canada's largest urban community hospital, delivers innovative, high quality patient care, advocates for the community's health and wellness issues, and is an expert in research, teaching and learning. The Scarborough Hospital is a regional treatment centre for dialysis and is renowned for its sexual assault care centre and mental health programmes. Affiliated with the University of Toronto, the Scarborough Hospital is also a referral centre for vascular surgery, pacemakers and corneal implants.

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. Fully respecting patient confidentiality, these private and secure systems provide health care professionals with rapid access to complete and accurate patient information, enabling better decisions about diagnosis and treatment. The result is a sustainable, health care system offering improved quality, accessibility and productivity. More news about Canada Health Infoway is available in the VMW March 2007 article Innovative technology will help improve health care for Toronto's homeless.

Leslie Versweyveld

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