Credit Valley Hospital finishes off data integration operation

A major problem in the health-care field is duplication of information. And this is what the Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ont. wanted to eliminate when it opened the Carlo Fidani Peel Regional Cancer Centre to provide oncology services and treatment for cancer patients.

The centre uses a radiation treatment planning system called VARIS, which had to integrate into the hospital’s existing health information system, called MediTech.

“We had an interface engine which was very proprietary,” said Avril Cardoso, manager of information systems at Credit Valley Hospital. “It was difficult finding education manuals, even technical expertise, so our ability to integrate systems was quite limited.”

It also meant practitioners didn’t have patient information available to them when a patient arrived, resulting in delays, disrupted workflow and the potential for error.

Working with Microsoft partner Cactus Commerce, the hospital rolled out BizTalk Server 2006 to transfer patient health records from MediTech to VARIS. Now, it’s able to provide cancer centre staff with up-to-date patient health records and monitor the flow of information between the two systems.

This comes at a time when the number of interfaces that the hospital requires is increasing dramatically. “Between last year and this year I’ve seen a 30 per cent increase, and I expect that upward trend to continue next year,” said Cardoso. “So more and more specialized clinical systems are being implemented, [such as] cardiology, diagnostic imaging, cancer treatment systems.” Because the hospital is able to quickly roll out interfaces, she added, it will rely on BizTalk to be the gateway to fully electronic health records.

The provincial Ministry of Health also has a wait-times project in the works, so the hospital was able to build its interfaces in a couple of weeks – the other option being to do this manually, at a greater expense. “Previously I’d have to spend close to $5,000 per interface,” said Cardoso. “I don’t have to keep reinvesting the $5,000.”

The key to having a fully integrated health record is integrating all this clinical and medical information, said Chris Brakel, product manager for eBiz at Microsoft Canada. Rather than configuring an interface all over again and doing a whole other project, he said, you can go into your existing BizTalk server and take a snapshot of the entire configuration. “So that’s a huge cost savings,” he said. And, as health networks continue to pop up across Ontario, integration between hospitals and family physicians will become increasingly important.

Changing the methodology around their integration also gives the hospital more flexibility, said Scott Cairney, vice-president of enterprise collaboration and integration at Cactus Commerce. “Picture a car that doesn’t have shock absorbers or springs,” he said. “Driving down the road you’d feel every bump.”

The hospital now has a foundation for building some of their innovative ideas, he said, and it also allows them to analyze the data going through BizTalk in the form of business-level reports.

The hospital now has automated alerts, so IT staff is able to respond immediately when there’s a problem. The integration is real time, said Cardoso, so messages go through the interface engine within seconds and are immediately received at the other end so patient care can continue to occur.

Previously, it was more expensive to integrate systems and there was no way to send out alerts. “It might be an hour before something could be fixed where now it would be minutes,” she said. “We’ve been able to meet our integration needs with a variety of clinical systems through the use of our internal staff – at a much lower cost.”

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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