Nfld. centre to develop electronic pharmacy network

The Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information is embarking on the next phase of its electronic health record strategy after recently selecting a vendor to develop and implement a pharmacy network that will link all of the province’s

87 community pharmacies and stores.

After a four-month RFP process the centre chose Emergis Inc. earlier this month as the lead vendor of a consortium of four Canadian companies including Systems Xcellence Inc., Courtyard Group Ltd. and St. John’s, Nfld.-based zedIT Solutions Inc. The Centre has also partnered with Canada Health Infoway, which has a mandate to create an electronic health record (EHR) by 2009. Infoway will provide funding for the project — dubbed the drug information system (DIS) project — which is currently in the negotiation phase. Monetary details have not been confirmed to date.

These systems are a key part of electronic health-care projects that are being implemented across the country. Earlier this year Infoway announced it would contribute $1.8 million towards four new health-care IT initiatives in Quebec, including the computerization of the province’s health and social services network. One of the main benefits of DIS is the ability for physicians and pharmacists like Newfoundland pharmacist Margot Priddle to access the complete medication profile of patients to ensure proper drug utilization.

Priddle, who is also DIS project manager, said the pharmacy network will be indispensable for health care professionals.

“Right now the information a pharmacist has in front of them is what’s in their computer,” said Priddle. “If you were to get a prescription at one pharmacy and the next day go to another pharmacy the first pharmacy doesn’t know what you had filled. The pharmacist is basically working blind with the information they have.”

Emergis, which has expertise in electronic health claims processing with private and public institutions including the Workers Compensation Board of Ontario, it is looking at incorporating projects like this into its line of business. Emergis is looking at what other provinces are doing in terms of DIS and other EHR-related projects but hasn’t announced any other projects outside of this one.

“The implementation and adoption of the electronic health record or such initiatives would improve the quality, the safety, especially with the DIS, the safety in the delivery of the care to the population throughout Canada,” said Emergis spokeswoman Ann-Marie Gagne.

The pharmacy network is the next step in the centre’s four-year long EHR strategy. To date, the centre has implemented or is in the process of implementing various projects including labs, PACS and client registry systems.

“(DIS) is part of our vision for EHR,” said Priddle. “This is just one component in that envelope.”

While still in the early stages, Priddle hopes to eventually use the system for e-prescribing where physicians can file a prescription on their desktop that is electronically sent to the pharmacy.

“The patient will have the benefit of having that information assessed by the health-care worker for them,” said Priddle. She added the number of people taking prescription medication has gone up drastically in the last decade, increasing the risk of drug interaction errors, which can be fatal.

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