Hospitals test Web-based patient record system

OTTAWA — A stone’s throw away from the health-care summit where provincial premiers and Prime Minister Paul Martin are trying to hammer out a new funding deal, a Toronto-based company was demonstraitng technology it says could remedy one of the system’s biggest woes.

In partnership with

Toronto’s Compugen and the Centre of Global eHealth Innovation, DataGlider is working with three Toronto-area hospitals to commercialize an intelligent eHealth portal.

The company, which unveiled the portal technology in Ottawa during a Tuesday event hosted by Precarn Inc. at the National Arts Centre, said the portal could ensure patient health records follow the patient anytime they move to another Canadian city.

The system is being piloted at Lakeridge Health Corp. in Whitby, Ont., Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ont.

The intelligent system is also capable of providing health-care specialists with instant access to relevant information on their patients, such as specific reports, CT scans, or MRI images, explained David Lewis, DataGlider’s director of sales and marketing.

The portal also comes equipped with algorithms which offer physicians various treatment options, enabling them to make more informed decisions. This feature, he said, could lead to a decrease in medical errors and increase in the quality of patient care.

“”The key part is to keep the legacy systems that are in hospitals today and put an intelligent layer on top of them, applying different rules and logic to present the information through the Internet to a browser or a PDA device,”” Lewis said, adding the technology can cost between $200,000 to $500,000, depending on the size of the hospital. “”All of this happens through a secure connection that’s encrypted.””

Lewis added the technology has obvious applications to the Canada Health Infoway initiative, a government-funded organization that hopes to establish a pan-Canadian patient record system by 2009.

DataGlider sees its technology applying to two of the Canada Health Infoway’s key objectives: to aggregate all patient information and to have a “”personal view of information that’s aggregated from different places into a portal,”” said Lewis.

The company is in discussions with participating hospitals on how it might present a business case for the intelligent portal to Canada Health Infoway.

“”I think this (portal) will fit well into the Canada Health Infoway’s future,”” said Precarn CEO Anthony Eyton, who first learned of the initiative after being approached by Compugen, a Precarn member.

“”Health records for Canadians are maintained in silos and there are no crosswalks between those silos. So if you move from Ottawa to Toronto, your health records, your X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, don’t follow you.””

The participating hospitals have agreed there is a need to integrate their patient records so physicians anywhere in Toronto can have targeted access to them, said Eyton.

“”Of course, physicians wouldn’t have access to everything,”” only the specific information that was relevant to a particular procedure they were performing, he added. “”As well, they would only access the system with the patient’s permission.””

Bernard Courtois, chief executive of the Information Technology Association of Canada, said such technology as the intelligent ehealth portal is needed to fix Canada’s ailing healthcare system.

“”The health-care system is a big under-user of information technology, yet (technology) could make a huge difference in the way health care is delivered,”” he said. “”(If a private sector) company didn’t have a single client record, we couldn’t operate. Yet we operate our health-care system this way. It causes a great deal of frustration.””

Despite such frustrations, others have pointed to some encouraging developments.

When completed, the Ontario Hospital eHealth Council’s patient ID system will allow health-care workers to automatically access a patient’s electronic record from any hospital in the province.

The system is expected to reduce duplicate tests conducted by different hospitals, while eliminating much of the background administrative work associated with patients, improving patient flow and access to services.

Alistair Smith, executive director of the Capital Health Alliance in Ottawa, is overseeing a pilot project that will link the patient record systems of 14 of the 18 hospitals in eastern Ontario in the next 16 months.

Without a system that identifies “”like patients”” from facility to facility, there are “”significant gaps”” in the health-care system, he said.

Meanwhile, Lewis emphasized that while his system’s algorithms give users various treatment options, they are not designed to make decisions for physicians, as some critics might suggest.

“”Our role is … to present the right information to them. Ultimately the physician is the one who’s assimilating that information and making the decision,”” he said . “”We’re going to learn through this research project and what physicians really want, what’s going to make their lives easier, what information can they get in a portal that will allow them to make a more informed decision.””

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