IT vendors form collective for hospital transformation

An Ontario hospital Wednesday announced a seven-year, $100 million initiative to better link patients and their records with health care professionals through an alliance with eight leading technology companies.

Called Transforming Health Care into Integrated Networks of Knowledge, or THINK,

Trillium Health Centre announced its partnership with IBM Canada Ltd., AGFA, Cognos Inc., Courtyard Group, Eclipsys, EMC Corp., IMS Maxims and Sybase Inc. The final eight were selected from over 40 suppliers that replied to an open bid process put out by Trillium three years ago — around the same time Wayne Mills started as Trillium’s vice-president and chief information officer.

“In 2002 we stated we needed partners and that no one supplier could do this,” said Mills. “The alliance was created for the purpose of what we can do to transform the patient experience.”

The announcement follows a recent report by the Health Council of Canada which calls for all hospitals to broaden their use of IT to make patients immediately available to health professionals by 2010. Trillium expects to meet the report’s proposals two years before the deadline.

“Our hospitals are important but they’re not at the centre of the health-care model,” Trillium president and CEO Ken White said in a press conference held at the hospital’s Queensway site in Etobicoke, Ont. “Our new model enables us to turn the hospital inside out and put the patient at the centre.

“Our goal is to design and implement systems that put information in the right hands, in the right way and at the right time.”

This includes, for example, the integration of multiple health-care records, from lab tests to pharmacology, into a single electronic patient record and anytime-anywhere availability of patient records to patients, doctors and nurses via electronic devices such as PDAs and tablet PCs, White added.

Other benefits include reduced wait times for diagnoses and treatment, the ability for patients to schedule procedures online and less time spent on paperwork and more time with patients for health-care workers.

These examples follow recommendations set out by the Ontario Ministry of Health, which has directed hospitals to invest in transition strategies to become more efficient.

Speaking on behalf of provincial health and long-term care minister George Smitherman, who was originally scheduled to attend the event, local MPP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore Laurel Broten said the health-care system needs more initiatives like this one in Ontario.

“Minister Smitherman said everybody should have the information they require to make decisions about their health,” said Broten, who is also parliamentary assistant to the Premier. “Trillium is a microcosm for what we’re trying to do across Ontario.”

Led by Trillium, which has a second site in Mississauga, Ont., THINK is funded in part by reallocating internal resources, reprioritizing its capital investments and reinvesting savings from operational efficiencies in clinical and non-clinical areas. This includes annual investments in acquiring or replacing hardware and systems. Overall, Trillium spends close to five per cent of its overall operating budget on IT, said White.

Under the terms of the agreement, all parties are working together to develop integrated systems in data management, distribution, storage and security for Trillium. As the lead organization in the partnership, IBM Canada will provide industry consulting expertise and project management to ensure all sub-contractor products and services are delivered and implemented.

IBM Canada said the initiative changes how the community thinks of hospitals.

“(THINK) requires all levels of collaboration, integration and cooperation,” said Rik Ganderton, partner and national leader, health-care industry at IBM Canada, which will also provide Websphere Portal software to integrate heterogeneous systems and point of access to systems for health care professionals. “This is a big step forward for the transformation of health care in Ontario.”

As part of the first phase of the implementation, expected to take about two years, Trillium is standardizing its corporate performance management (CPM) cycle on Cognos products. This provides the hospital with dashboards to gather information on patient wait times, for example, said Dennis Murphy, country area vice-president.

Said Murphy of the alliance: “We at Cognos are very used to partnership. We’ve been doing this from the get-go. It’s what we do everyday.”

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