Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres plan Web-based apps

Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres has signed a three-year exclusive licensing agreement with health-care application service provider Nightingale Informatix Corp. to roll out three Web-based applications across its 29 sites, improving patient care, reducing wait times and providing greater operational efficiencies, executives said Wednesday.

The Centres, which employ over 80 speech-language pathologists and audiologists across the province, will begin the implementation this April at one of its sites in Halifax. It expects to have the project completed within six to eight months of the start date, not including a six-month evaluation period.

Similar to other projects Nightingale has done, such as digitizing ambulatory patient data at a Toronto hospital, the Centres have also chosen to implement its Web-based myNightingale Enterprise Practice Management and Electronic Patient Record application. The Centres will also be installing a decisions app to automate workload management.

The deal includes more than 80 new licences valued at $300,000. The funding for the project was earmarked in the province’s Department of Health (DOH) 2005-2006 and 2007-2008 budgets. Nightingale will provide the licences on a health-care provider basis, meaning the Centres can have an unlimited number of users.

The Centres went through a request for proposal (RFP) process but decided to work with Nightingale for a few reasons, including the province’s existing relationship with the Markham, Ont.-based company. The DOH had a previous license agreement with Nightingale as part of the province-wide Primary Healthcare Information Management (PHIM) program. The program, which began in mid-2005, aims to give health-care providers electronic health records (EHR) to access patient information in real time.

“We really felt that from a software perspective that the Nightingale solution would best meet our needs,” said Lynn Fraser, CEO of Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres. “The other important factor was the relationship that was established with the Nova Scotia Department of Health.”

Having a platform that is compatible with the DOH was also an important consideration as the Department is hosting the Centres’ Web site through its health data centre, added Fraser.

Managing patients better is one of the biggest benefits of implementing a system like this, said Alia Mourtada, vice-president of product strategy and client services for Nightingale.

“With the system in place they can look at all of their sites and be able to access various programs across locations and are able to make real time decisions,” said Mourtada. “It allows them to distribute their staff based on the data they’re seeing much faster than dealing with documents.”

But before these benefits can be realized, the Centres have to prep its infrastructure to ready itself for the implementation. Nightingale will provide three trainers plus one project manager to work with the Centres’ staff. Not all sites, for example, currently have high speed Internet.

“Over the next couple of months we’ll be addressing that on a site-by-site basis to ensure that everybody has high speed Internet available,” said Fraser.

Wait time reduction and operational efficiencies aside, legislation such as the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) and government mandates handled by such organizations as Canada Health Infoway are driving health-care organizations towards digitizing their records and automating their systems.

“Legislation is a big pusher for electronic medical records,” said Mourtada. “More and more patients are participating in their health care. They now have the ability to request to view their medical records.”

This is the Centres’s goal one day, but staff are currently manually tracking the date of the patient’s initial referral, consultation with a physician and all subsequent appointments.

Eventually, the Nightingale system will allow the sites to generate reports and automatically track the amount of time from first appointment to treatment, speeding up the registration process for patients.

“If a new patient comes into our system and they come into one location and they need to or choose to be seen at a different location in the province, we need to start all over again or physically send the information on the patient,” said Fraser, describing the current system, which dates back to the mid-‘80s. “With a province wide network, people will enter the system once and their information is captured and accessible via the Web secure connections to all of our sites.”

Eventually the Centres hopes to be able to offer patients the ability to review and schedule their appointments online.

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