Newfoundland provides health clinics with digitization software

Two Newfoundland and Labrador health clinics are in the midst of installing software that would help them create electronic versions of medical records.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information (NLCHI) issued an RFP for the software in January and awarded the contract to Vancouver-based Wolf Medical Systems shortly after. By November, the installation should be complete, providing 25 physicians on four sites plus their support staff access to the software. The software will be hosted within the Eastern Health Care Board’s data infrastructure.

“Those practices will make full use of the EMR system to help automate their offices and certainly minimize any paper in the day-to-day operations of the clinics,” said Mike Barron, CEO of NLCHI, an arm’s length provincial government agency.

The advantage of electronic content over paper is ease of access to records which are available in a format which can be shared easily, said Brendan Byrne, president and founder of Wolf Medical Systems. The company’s software has been installed at 325 clinical sites across Canada (in Ontario, B.C., Alberta, the Northwest Territories and now Newfoundland and Labrador) for a total of approximately 1,100 physicians.

“It’s basically software that automates everything from billing and scheduling through the physician’s workflow all the way through to an electronic patient chart,” he said.

If there’s a drug recall, for example, it would be possible to quickly identify the patients who might be taking the affected medication. “Those kind of benefits are enormous for the clinics,” said Barron.

When choosing the software, the NLCHI specifically requested that it be compatible with HL7 version 3 messaging standards. Software that adheres to those standards isn’t widely available yet, but they will likely become the platform of choice for future implementations, said Barron, and have been endorsed by Canada Health Infoway.

“Certainly HL7 version 3 is where we all need to go, but unfortunately to go and buy something off the shelf . . . just isn’t there right now. (The records) need to interoperate. It will certainly be interesting to see how that rolls out as we put our interoperable communications structure in place,” he said.

The NLCHI is keenly observing the EMR implementations going on in other provinces to make sure that its pilot project is on the right track. “We keep looking at what’s happening in places like Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan to see where our next steps will come,” said Barron, adding the caveat that “EMR market in Canada is very immature.”

Physicians are free to choose their own systems if they wish to implement an EMR in their own clinics, said Barron, but if successful, the NLCHI pilot would be an ideal reference point and could become a template for the entire province.

Other medical projects currently underway in the province include a $25-million pharmacy network, which was first announced back in June and will be implemented over three years. Once complete it will be able to deliver real-time medication profiles to 180 retail pharmacies as well as hospitals and clinics.

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