Edmonton’s Capital Health, one of the largest integrated academic health regions in Canada, is rolling out Oracle’s database technology to thousands of users this fall to help manage patient data throughout the city.

Capital Health’s netCare, pilot-tested in February and March of this year,

integrates patient information from diverse site information systems and displays data in facilities across the region.

“”It’s not about the technology itself, quite frankly, it’s about things such as the usability of the solution,”” said Donna Strating, CIO of Capital Health, which governs hospitals and health-care facilities in Edmonton.

Strating said Oracle’s database 9i (Capital Health had used version 8i up until May) has given the health care region “”incredible response times”” of two or three seconds in pulling up significant amounts of patient data. This is “”absolutely essential to physicians,”” she explained.

“”Without that, they won’t use the technology even though it in fact may work . . .What safety is about is having the right information when you’re caring for a patient.””

Also key to Capital Health was tapping Oracle’s robust database to organize patient information within a solid structure, Strating said.

Now that Capital Health has pulled together a “”well-organized and well-indexed”” amount of information, she explained, the next step is to use some of that for research purposes and to ascertain population health.

Capital Health, a long-time “”Oracle shop,”” considered only Oracle for the job even though it went through a request-for-proposal process, Strating said. Oracle was a good candidate to bring together netCARE’s disparate databases for Capital Health, an umbrella organization for 13 hospitals, she added.

“”We needed something that could scale to the level of an enterprise operation.””

One of the biggest concerns as Capital Health embarked on running netCare on top of the database was ensuring that multiple parts of the solution worked together well. For example, she said, there would be a problem if an application couldn’t understand the technology underlying a strong database.

NetCARE was created by Central Station, a consortium of information technology, process knowledge and health-care expertise providers, including HP, Oracle, Orion Systems International, Quovadx and Sierra Systems.

The partners that arrived at the table had a history of working together and were committed to not laying blame if issues emerged as all the technologies were woven together, Strating explained.

Henk Dykuizen, Ottawa-based vice-president of government education and health care for Oracle in Canada, said the software firm addressed other issues important to Capital Health, namely assurances patient data would be kept secure and private.

Also appealing was Oracle’s move five years ago towards providing health-care solutions, including a system called the health-care transaction base and an on-staff chief medical officer who gives direction for products geared towards health care —— all of which conveyed Oracle was a “”leading light”” in building an infrastructure for electronic health records, said Dykuizen.

He said Oracle’s other customers in health care are based in the U.S. and Europe, particularly in Britain, which spends an estimated £5 billion to £10 billion on national electronic health-care programs; whereas government funding for these projects in Canada is only now starting to “”come around.””

Capital Health’s netCare is a case in point. More than 2,600 health professionals are now authorized to use netCare and up to 300 new users are being trained each week. By the end of July users had already gained access to more than 70,000 patient records and examined more than 183,000 screens of patient information. Capital Health expects to have most of the 6,000 pre-approved health professionals using the system by the end of the fall.

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