B.C. physicians put patient records under microscope

The vision of an electronic medical record will be closer to reality if an alliance between the B.C. College of Family Physicians and Nightingale Informatix Corp.is


The college is partnering with Informatix, a Markham, Ont. -based technology company on a study using electronic record and practice management technology to gather information on chronic diseases like diabetes, congestive heart failure and asthma, and to see how the technology impacts patient outcomes.

The college’s president, Dr. Ranbir Mann, says the goal of the project is to improve patient care for people with chronic diseases by gathering more data on their treatment. It’s also a first step towards an electronic medical record for every person in the province.

“”There’s a lot of data collected on these chronic cases, and it’s difficult in a busy day for a doctor to organize that,”” says Mann. “”The electronic health record is ideally suited to make sure patients are receiving the best medical care.””

One of the barriers to electronic medical records has been the comfort level of physicians with using technology in their practices. A doctor entering information into a desktop computer while speaking with a patient has been viewed as too intrusive to the doctor/patient relationship.

To overcome that, Nightingale has developed a system that uses an Acer Tablet PC, similar in size to a regular doctor’s file. The device is wireless, offers voice recognition for inputting patient data and biometrics for security, and Mann says since it’s Web-based it’s more familiar for users and easier to learn.

“”It’s a lot closer to what we’re using and less intrusive then other IT systems, so family physicians should be pretty comfortable with it,”” says Mann.

The college is offering 100 family care physicians financial incentives and training to use the Nightingale solution, which will be customized with modules designed by the college to gather information on specific chronic diseases.

As primary heath care is renewed in the province, a key part of the reforms is to create systems to manage complex data. For that to happen, Mann says the health care community needs to commit to an IT solution.

Nightingale CEO Sam Chebib says they might have that solution. The company’s Chronic Disease Management application, which includes medical record charting tools such as medical history, medications, lab results and trend analysis, runs as an ASP over a dedicated Internet connection to Nightingale’s servers, minimizing the need for doctors to invest in technology infrastructure.

The enterprise edition of the product allows information to be shared amongst authorized users, and the common templates will ensure the uniform capture of data.

Chebib says security is a major priority, and to that end the connection between the physician office and Nightingale’s data centre runs on a secure socket layer with 128-bit encryption. They’ve invested in Public Key Infrastructure.

“”There’s two-way authentication to verify the user is who he says he is and to ensure the authenticity of the data, no user can access the application without a digital certificate that we issue,”” says Chebib. “”We can also use biometrics, so a physician would have to swipe their thumbprint.””

The college is hoping that a successful pilot project with family physicians could lead towards electronic medical records for the wider medical system, and by gathering data on chronic disease management in one easily-accessible database, valuable research possibilities could be opened up.

“”There’s so much data out there from so many different sources, it’s much better for patients and physicians if all that data can be collected in one place,”” says Mann. “”A physician would have instant access to all of the patient’s medical history anywhere in the province, and be able to provide the best possible care,”” says Mann.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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