Smart Systems for Health reaches IT strategy milestone

A government agency that professes to be the “”glue”” that holds Ontario’s health-care providers together is dveloping an IT infrastructure to enable them to share information more readily.

The Smart Systems for Health Agency (SSHA) Wednesday announced it has completed the first stage of this

infrastructure through a 10-year, $30-million outsourcing deal with Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co.

As part of that contract, HP Canada is responsible for maintaining two data centres in Toronto that went live last fall and will act as information hubs for hospitals, clinics and other health-care facilities in the province.

“”It’s basically the walls of the house,”” said SSHA’s chief technology officer Linda Weaver. HP Canada is responsible for “”the floor space, the walls, the power, air conditioning, all of those kinds of things that go with having a facility space that we can then put our computer facilities inside of.””

The IT being housed inside those walls comes from a variety of other technology companies including Xwave, EDS, Legato and Qunara, a subsidiary of Manitoba Telecom Services.

“”The first thing here is really providing a highly available, highly secure IT infrastructure,”” said Wally Hogan, managing director of HP Managed Services Canada. “”This lines up with the electronic health record and health care agenda for Ontario. The initial step here was to really get that infrastructure up and running such that they can move forward with a number of initiatives in the future.””

The project is starting with some basic applications like e-mail. Health-care providers in Ontario have not in the past had access to common e-mail. The latest system isn’t designed to replace the proliferation of e-mail systems across the province’s hospitals and health-care organizations, but is a step closer to getting them all on the same page.

Other applications that are now being hosted by the SSHA data centres include a public key infrastructure (PKI) and a portal platform that will allow health-care providers to build Web sites.

Next month the Integrated Services for Children Information System (ISCIS), which registers newborns across the province, will move into the data centre. It’s an initial step in providing a central repository for the province’s electronic patient records which are currently kept in numerous databases in hospitals and facilities throughout Ontario.

“”What we have to build over time is a system that allows information from all of those various things to be shared,”” said Weaver. “”Part of our mandate is to build all of the linkages into all of the various systems that are out there and to build a system that will actually store the very key parts of the electronic health record.””

Those key parts include basic and essential information like patient names and the allergies that may prevent them from taking certain medications. SSHA will work towards the provision of common health information over the next few years, said Hogan. The agency will also launch its own Web site shortly, which has been held up in development due to a recent change in provincial government.


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