The Canadian Department of National Defence has entered Phase 2 of the war it is waging against paper-based health care. Its current mission is to build an electronic health-care record system for its members that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. The project, awarded to Lockheed Martin

Canada, will allow more than 2,500 Canadian Forces health care employees across Canada to share information securely and provide services for 85,000 regular and reserve personnel. Along with the usual health care data related to radiology and other medical records, the system will also include dental data.

Brian Roach, project manager for the Canadian Forces health information system project, said the advantage of using an electronic system is that it will allow for a continuity of care CF members don’t have at the moment.

“”Right now if you’ve got a member who gets injured in Afghanistan, you’re going to have records maintained there. If that person comes back to B.C. because that’s his home base, you’re going to have records there,”” said Roach. “”Cost is one driver but quality of care is probably the biggest driver for doing this, and I don’t know you can easily put a return on investment figure on that unless you’ve had to walk a mile in that soldier’s shoes.””

The first phase involved a proof of concept to make sure the vendor’s products would meet the DND’s needs. The second phase of the 10-year, $54.5-million project will cost $31 million and will involve migrating from current paper-based operations to a fully integrated system that will include scheduling and patient registration functions, clinical order review, pharmacy, laboratory and diagnostic imaging. Phase 2, which got underway about three months ago, is expected to be completed by the end of 2006, while Phase 3, expected to begin in January 2007, will roll out clinical notes and orders and integrate management information system guidelines.

Part of the battle plan for the project includes measures to help the project stay on time and on budget, said Roach.

“”We make sure requirements are understood not only at the project level but also where the strategic direction of the department is going, and where we need to make the appropriate tradeoffs we will do so,”” he said.

Although it’s clear how health-care providers in Canada, even those outside the military system, will access the electronic health records, it’s not yet clear how it will work for CF staff sent outside the country on missions. One possibility is for ships, for example, to take a laptop or mobile computing device with members’ E-HR loaded onto it that can be updated upon returning to Canada.

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