The amalgamation of eight hospitals in Ontario’s Niagara region presented information technology staff with an integration challenge that has taken two years to address and taken the Niagara Health System from an assortment of systems to a common environment.

The new setup uses Meditech software

from Medical Information Technology Inc. of Westwood, Mass., and other applications running on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Server System.

The amalgamation of hospitals in St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Fort Erie and the surrounding area was the last of several hospital amalgamations dictated by a restructuring commission set up by Ontario’s previous Conservative government, said Dale Maw, regional director of information technology and telecommunications for what is now the Niagara Health System.

The hospitals had a variety of hardware and software, including some proprietary servers and operating systems, Windows, Unix, an IBM Corp. AS/400, and software from Novell Inc. and others, as well as home-grown applications, according to Maw.

“”Honestly, it was fairly messy,”” Maw says. The systems had to be consolidated and integrated to allow better access to information across the eight hospitals, Maw says. Previously, information sharing was limited. Today, “”if you showed up in the emergency room in Port Colborne two weeks ago with chest pains, that visit history could be seen at Great Niagara when you show up with a headache.””

Maw says the health system chose Meditech because “”there’s relatively few health-care information systems that are out there that can meet the needs of a corporation our size.””

Spokesman Paul Berthiaume of Meditech says his company’s software is used in hospitals of all sizes, from 50-bed rural facilities to the largest hospital complexes. The company has 38 per cent of the health-care software market in Canada, he says, and that figure rises to 49 per cent if Quebec — where Meditech does not sell — is excluded.

The company recently signed a deal for its software to be used in seven of Alberta’s nine health regions, he says.

The hospitals wanted a consistent operating system platform across the organization to keep support costs manageable, Maw says.

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