Atlantic Health Sciences offers remote access data to diabetics

AnyWare Group and Atlantic Health Sciences have developed a joint program giving recently diagnosed diabetic patients greater control over their health care by allowing them to submit data online such as their blood sugar levels, blood pressure and heart rate.

AnyWare Group based in Saint John, N.B. said the pilot project will cut down on time-consuming doctors’ visits and eventually eliminate costs from the health-care system.

The Role-oriented Access Management (ROAM) system enables patients to securely gain access to certain medical files and disease education resources through an Internet connection. Medical personnel may then analyze patients’ health-related data.

“If blood sugars are going out of whack, they can send an alert to their physician…” said Gerry Verner, CEO of AnyWare Group.

Sixty-three North American hospitals use ROAM to allow physicians to tap patient files from home, their clinics or wherever they are, but the project with Saint John-based Atlantic Health Sciences is the first time the technology permits patients to manage their disease online.

In keeping with privacy laws in North America, the system also identifies that the person logging on is an authenticated user, he said. For instance, a physician may have the right to look at patient medical records, while a hospital administrator will have access only to payroll and other related files.

AnyWare creates a personalized portal for users depending on their role within the organization.

“There’s no software that is resident on anyone’s PC,” so IT staff do not have to spend time on individual installations, said Verner about other customer benefits of ROAM.

For a $10,000 upfront fee, AnyWare will provide the entire managed service.

Although AnyWare has focused on the health care market because of the abundance of computer systems and staff members with varying authority to gain access to them – each hospital has about 40 to 50 different information systems – its customer base also includes law firms, municipal governments and call centres.

Other health care providers are interested in rolling out the patient disease management component of ROAM, including Ontario hospitals that have said “they haven’t seen anything like this,” Verner said.

Ten patients during this initial phase with Atlantic Health Sciences have been testing the usability of the system, which has been in development for 18 months, said Jill Barton MacPhee, administrative director for diabetes education and the internal medicine program.

“So far, so good,” she said. “Everything is working out well.”

Atlantic Health Sciences failed to find other systems that met its patient needs, Barton MacPhee said. She said some vendors provided an e-learning program without disease management, or offered elementary disease management functionality in other cases.

The hospital invested in ROAM because some patients initially diagnosed with diabetes cannot take time off work to attend a three-day education blitz about the condition, as well as one session every three months.

Other patients have a nonchalant attitude towards the disease and need to be reached immediately, she said. If they must electronically submit their blood pressure or heart rate, they are more likely to develop a “Big Brother’s watching mindset about diabetes education” that will encourage them to make an extra effort, explained Barton MacPhee.

An online chat room is set up to allow patients to discuss their condition with one another. “A diabetic educator can review those conversations and pick up an issue,” such as a patient who has a sore toe that might one day need to be amputated, she said. Diabetic patients sometimes face amputations because of their condition.

Atlantic Health Sciences over the next month will ask new diabetes patients, which number about 20 referrals each month, to consider using ROAM to receive their diabetes education and input their medical data.

Eventually the hospital hopes patients, particularly computer-savvy teenagers, will submit online medical information each day. It also aims for the system will be rolled out throughout the New Brunswick region, and will eventually be used by people with other chronic diseases requiring physician alerts, including arthritic and cardiac conditions.


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