A Canadian public sector agency has released an online set of best practices it hopes will guide the development of IT systems to track patient information in health-care organizations across the country.
says it has consulted with more than 300 experts to develop its Electronic Health Record Solution (EHRS) Blueprint. The project started last December and focused on the strategies necessary for hospitals, clinics and other institutions to create an IT architecture that will be interoperable with other e-health records systems. Many organizations in Canada, like Toronto’s Mount Sinai and Sunnybrook, already have electronic patient records in place, while some are still in the early stages.
The blueprint, which requires users to sign up and access via a password, contains a “”communities of practice”” area where ideas and questions can be posted, a knowledge centre to search for patient record-related data and an area to submit projects for investment. The actual blueprint section offers a full-colour illustration of a possible technical architecture, linking bulk data systems to virtual private networks, servers and client browsers.
Dennis Giokas, Infoway’s chief technology officer, said he wanted initial discussions to focus on the “”as is”” state of electronic patient records in Canada today. The agency, which was created three years ago to help improve the health-care system, visited with provider associations, academics and vendors across the country to put the blueprint together, he said.
Giokas said the blueprint is intended to help both health-care organizations new to e-patient records as well as those that already have projects completed or under way. The focus, he said, is making sure users can develop interoperable systems without throwing out older technology investments.
“”A green field does have its advantage, but you don’t have a basis to start with,”” he said, referring to new patient records projects. “”If you have some of the solutions in place, we don’t think it’s going to be a big stretch to retrofit some of those things.””
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At the Good Samaritan Society in Toronto, which specializes in long-term care, electronic patient records have been in place for four years. Joyce Johnson, the Society’s chief operating officer, said her organization would not necessarily need to integrate with hospitals focusing on acute care, but the Infoway blueprint could provide her with performance indicators to better measure her own systems.
“”We would make sure whatever we do is consistent with their guidelines,”” she said, adding that the Society had no choice but to focus on interoperability when it first developed e-records, given that it had few models to work from. “”There was some flexibility in the model we chose.””
Giokas said Infoway made sure to talk with organizations from the private sector that could offer IT strategies that applied to the specific concerns around patient data.
“”The idea that you can go to any ABM machine, put in a card and bring up your account information is a very simple business process that is relevant to health care,”” he said.
As a living document, Giokas said he hopes future contributions to the blueprint will help users address other issues, like privacy, that have plagued the patient records projects.