Newfoundland to install digital archiving for health care

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Ministry of Health announced a plan that will invest $14.5 million into a province-wide picture archiving and communications system that will be completed by next year.

The bulk of the funds, $10.5 million, will come from Canada Health Infoway, the pan-Canadian agency charged with creating a national electronic patient record. The remaining $4 million will come from the ministry. The project will be managed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information.

Picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) collect, manage and store images from X-Rays, MRIs, ultrasounds and T-scans, among others. Health-care organizations across Canada are using PACS to replace film so that they can more easily distribute patient information through their IT systems. The Newfoundland and Labrador project will establish 27 PACS sites, as well as a data centre responsible for disaster recovery, which will be based in the eastern part of the province.

Mike Barron, director of the health information network at the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information, said many of the province’s regional health boards are already setting up PACS. The plan is to use GE-based PACS equipment and integrate them with Cloverleaf software from Quovadix Inc. Initiate’s enterprise master person index (EMPI) will be used to provide access to PACS images and clinical content based on a unique identifer that will be tied to demographic information.

“The PACS systems themselves are fairly similar. The real hurdle is the interoperability of provincial archives,” he said. “Regional health boards will feed their images into the provincial archive, which will act as redundancy for their own internal systems.”

The unique identifier is a number which, when fed into the PACS and associated software, will create a match with information such as address, date of birth of mother’s maiden name through a special algorithm, Barron explained. The project has already gone through privacy impact assessment, and a steering committee composed of diagnostic image managers, IT managers and physicians will continue to look at security issues.

Cloverleaf integration software is already used in eight out of 10 provinces, according to Quovadx spokeswoman Andrea Lashnits in Greenwood Village, Colo. In most cases it is deployed within hospitals to connect disparate IT systems running financial, administrative and clinical systems, she said.

“This becomes a way they can extend this interaction out of their own systems to those of their neighbours,” she said of the Newfoundland and Labrador PACS project.

Barron said the project team has closely studied large PACS implementations in areas such as Thames Valley, and may adopt some of the best practices for its own system. So far there has been a surprisingly collegial spirit of co-operation between clinicians and IT staff working on the project, he said.

“Maybe because we’re not as flush with money as other provinces, that collaboration is a lot easier to swallow,” he said. “The health-care professionals think this is the cat’s meow.”

Prince Edward Island created a province-wide PACS system in 2004, linking seven hospitals.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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