A physicians’ group at an amalgamated health-care facility in Kincardine, Ont., has rolled out an electronic health records system to improve patient care and make the clinic more attractive to other doctors interested in working in the small rural town.

The Kincardine Physicians Group recently

signed a deal with Healthscreen Solutions Inc. in St. Catharines, Ont., to deploy HSpractice at the Kincardine Community Medical Clinic. The facility, which features two floors for patient care and a pharmacy, is located just across the street from the South Bruce Grey Health Centre, at which the clinic’s doctors also work. Doctors, nurses and support staff at the clinic will be able to interface with the hospital, complete electronic library downloads and use wireless networking.

The Kincardine project, funded by the municipality, is a partnership involving doctors, the hospital, the community and the city.

“We’re trying to re-organize our filing system because right at the present time, we’re filing in three different systems,” said Gert Larsen, office manager for the Kincardine Physicians Group. “And we have to amalgamate that because we have to streamline it. This was a way of putting together everybody’s charts (so) we could download blood results, we could download reports from the hospital.” 

The clinic has only 10 physicians, she added, but it is equipped to accommodate 12. And with the current roster of doctors also putting in time at the hospital, Larsen said the new clinic would benefit by having a full roster of physicians.

Although she said the clinic hasn’t been using the solution long enough for her to comment authoritatively on its long-term effectiveness, Dr. Lisa Moore, managing partner at the Riverside Court Medical Clinic in Ottawa, addressed how effective the Healthscreen solution has been to her clinic since it was deployed in January 2003.

“Our feeling is it’s more secure because there’s not lost pieces of paper or misfiling,” said Moore. “Healthscreen is a chart. We chose it because it looks like a chart, it acts like a chart, it thinks like a chart. All my laboratory information is all filed in one place…All my procedures are where I would expect all my procedures to be.” 

Moore added that by looking at the electronic charts, she’s able to understand, at a glance, what ongoing health problems her patients are going through and what prescriptions they’re on.

“It’s very user friendly,” she said. “The medication section of the chart, it tracks it the way that I need it to be tracked. It’s colour-coded to say which (of the) drugs I’ve prescribed are active, which ones are discontinued, which ones were temporary drugs like an antibiotic for seven days.”

It would nonetheless be inaccurate, she cautioned, to assume that clinics using the Healthscreen solution can immediately start experiencing the paperless-office ideal. Her Ottawa clinic, in fact, is far from paperless. And even though it rolled out the solution more than two years ago, it still hasn’t used all the features in the Healthscreen application.

Jim French, vice-president at Healthscreen, still listed the elimination of paper as one of the many benefits clinics can experience by using HSpractice.

“If you were a clinic of four or five doctors, you probably are hiring at least one full-time person just to handle paper, pull charts, file reports and so on,” he said. “By making a one time investment in software and computers you can reduce your overhead probably significantly, at least the staffing portion of it.

“Once all of the patient’s information…is in a database, the physician has the opportunity to query those databases…and identify all the women in their practice who have not had a pap smear done in a required period of time, all men over the age of 50 who haven’t had prostate exams in an appropriate period of time.”

French, who said his company’s solution has been selected as one of the EHRs to be used in the University of Western Ontario’s two-year Delivery Primary Healthcare Information (Delphi) Project, added that the application costs in the neighbourhood a $4,000 to $5000 one-time fee per physician as well as an annual support fee ranging from $300 and $400 per physician.

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