Toronto hospital acts the part

Canadian e-health experts have put out a casting call for vendors to help establish a facility that will re-create hospital scenarios in order to demonstrate IT solutions such as electronic patient records.

Located at the Centre for

Global eHealth Innovation in the Toronto General Hospital, the concept laboratory will put actors as well as real-life health-care providers and patients in settings that explore interoperability and usability issues. Canada Health Infoway, which has a mandate to set up a national electronic health record (EHR) by 2009, has contributed $661,300 to the project as the first investment under an innovation and adoption program launched last year.

Dr. Alex Jadad, director of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, said the first demonstrations using the collaboratory would feature a “physician’s office of the future,” complete with waiting room, desk and examination area.

“Imagine a movie studio, and just like a movie studio you can create an environment that pretty much feels, looks and acts like the real deal,” he said.  “We have movable walls, movable floors, moveable ceilings — everything can be changed.”

A one-way glass will allow spectators to observe the simulated environments, which will also be videotaped. Monitoring equipment will track fine details such as the iris of the human eye to see how quickly a physician will be able to find the information they are looking for on screen. Vendors who contribute equipment to the collaboratory will receive reports that identify areas for improvement.

Infoway chief technology officer Dennis Giokas said visitors to the collaboratory could include the general public, politicians, health ministry staff, regional health authority staff, delivery organizations and clinicians of all types. 

“The EHR is a conceptual thing at this point that is very difficult for people to understand,” he said. “We view this as a showcase for a broad-based audience, if you will.”

Infoway hosted a workshop in January where officials identified a number of high-level scenarios to be played out in the collaboratory, Giokas said, such as how a physician would use an EHR “viewer” to manage an individual health record, managing a pandemic, deal with the order-entry of medications and other procedures.

“We’ll have all these use cases that you could role play,” he said. “We’ll be evaluating (things like), how quickly are we getting to medication in the ER? Is it 20 clicks or three clicks? If there’s savings of a minute or so, that can be very significant.”

While many Canadian health-care organizations are making some progress converting paper-based records into electronic files, there are ongoing concerns about resistance from front-line clinical staff and the propensity for error. Last month, for example, the Calgary Health Region had to shut down a database after doctors noticed lab data on more than 2,000 patients had been incorrectly sorted.

Jadad said the controlled conditions of the collaboratory will ultimately help vendors and health-care providers protect people and improve people’s health. 

“That would be dangerous to do with real patients,” he said. “This is almost like an intermediate stage between an invention from vendors and the needs of Infoway.”

The two partners said the eHealth Collaboratory is set to host its first demonstration sometime this fall.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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