Hot topics at this year’s GTEC: electronic records, wireless

Electronic health records for the military, document-tracking for federal public servants and a wireless Internet system for Saskatchewan residents: these three ongoing projects are some of the hot topics at GTEC this year.

Over the last six years, Saskatchewan has invested more than $70 million

to ensure 74 per cent of the population has access to wired Internet service.

This means 366 communities have connections, including all schools, government offices, public libraries and health facilities. The next leg of the effort is to deliver a wireless Internet connection to 86 per cent of the province’s residents, making it home to “”the largest contiguous broadband network in the in the world,”” Learning Minister Andrew Thomson says.

“”The province will be one giant hotspot. For the first time, this will mean businesses and farms located outside of community centres will have access to wireless high-speed. This will be a tremendous benefit to them.””

However, cost is still one of the biggest challenges. The wireless network will require $35 million. With a view to absorbing these costs, the Saskatchewan government has opted to use a single supplier, Saskatoon-based VCom, to work on the rollout with SaskTel. “”The wired program and now the wireless program will be supported by commercial-viability models,”” says Thomson.

There was a small amount of government funding at the beginning of the wired program, and Thomson expects most of the wireless initiative to be realized without government support.

The only exception would be the delivery of wireless Internet to 35 of the province’s most northerly communities, says Thomson. For this portion of the project, Thomson’s government hopes to strike a cost-sharing arrangement with the federal government.

“”This (project) will change the way we handle some of the demographic challenges with a declining school population. We need to make sure we still have good curriculum rollout across the province. This (project) will allow this government to move from one that’s focused on information technology to (one that’s focused on) information management.””

Meanwhile, the Canadian Forces just received Treasury Board approval to proceed with Phase II of its electronic health records system — a topic that GTEC presenter Lt. Col. Jim Kirkland will explore during the conference.

Kirkland is the project director for the Canadian Forces Health Information System, or CFHIS, which aims to manage online health records for 50,000 to 60,000 military personnel, including drug and dental information. One of the requirements of the system is that it must keep track of transient personnel 24-7 as they move from mission to mission, or from land to sea.

Taking up the challenge was Lockheed-Martin, which won the $115-million, five-year contract in 2002. Sub-contractors include Oracle, IBM, Entrust, Florida-based SCC Soft Computer Consultants, and Toronto-based Adstra Systems Inc. It is one of the largest electronic health record implementations in Canada.

So far, one of the biggest challenges has been to configure the system’s delivered solutions so they support the CF’s primary care providers, says Kirkland.

“”If you have a commercial off-the-shelf product, you can put it in an organization and find out that you change the workflow of your care providers significantly and they’ll reject it. Or, you could put a solution in that supports their workflow but it’s too burdensome to use, so they’ll reject that.””

To ensure neither of these scenarios occurs, the CFHIS team has brought together care provider groups, physicians, lab techs, pharmacists and nurses who have been asked to define their workflow, he says.

“”We need to ensure that the solution supports the workflow. It’s like an airplane: you build it and it may have all the functional pieces but the first time you go and fly it, it crashes into the ground. So we need to make sure the system doesn’t crash when we fly it.””

Currently, the CFHIS team has deployed a limited amount of capability from proof-of-concept test beds located at the National Defence Medical Centre in Ottawa. There, contractors had to test roughly 600 requirements to ensure each part of the system was up to spec.

The capability derived from these tests is now being deployed at three CF pilot sites, including Edmonton, Esquimalt , B.C.and Ottawa, with much success, says Kirkland. Patient registration, scheduling and immunization tracking were among the first functions to be tested. Phase II is expected to last roughly two years before the project enters its final nationwide rollout stage.

“”We’ve done surveys of our people to find out if they would want to pitch the system if it wasn’t meeting their needs, but we’re finding that people are happy. The (system) is adding to the quality of care.””

Some of the work being done by CGI Group and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has a slightly different target audience than the military’s primary care providers. The two organizations are working collaboratively on an enhanced document management system that uses the federal government’s existing Records, Document and Information Management System (RDIMS) product. Traditionally, government departments have used RDIMS to manage electronic documents, explains Dan Larocque, assistant director of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, who will present a case study on his department’s effort to build an information management system at GTEC.

“”In some organizations, you build or buy additional software to track executive correspondence,”” says Larocque. “”But there’s a lot of money required for that. So we asked, why not utilize the foundation of electronic document management and marry that with document-centric processes?””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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