Sun opens Canadian iForce facility to focus on e-health

Sun Microsystems Inc. has selected Canada for what it is touting as the world’s first partner-led health-care centre designed to help vendors and customers develop integrated IT systems across multi-vendor platforms for use in a health-care


Sun Wednesday announced the opening of the Authorized iForce Solution Centre for Healthcare IT in Ottawa. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has over 50 iForce centres worldwide, including two in Canada, but this is the first centre to focus on health care. The centre is located within Dinmar’s corporate office in the nation’s capital. Founded in 1992, Dinmar develops electronic health record, case management and accounting software for the health-care industry.

“The focus and target is not only Canada but around the world,” said Charles Mair, executive director of global health care at Sun Microsystems Inc. “We’re focusing on an aspect which is becoming more and more mainstream, which is e-health.”

Mair added one of the main reasons Sun chose Canada was because of the federal government’s aggressiveness in programs like Canada Health Infoway. Similarly, Dinmar vice-president John Hendriks said interoperability is key to fulfilling the federal government’s mandate to create a nationwide electronic health-care (EHR) record.

“The key to success for Canada Health Infoway is being able to come to grips with a pan-Canadian health information system by leveraging the systems that are currently out there to as large as an extent as possible,” said Hendriks. “Clearly interoperability is key to where they’re going and how they’re eventually going to have success.”

Sun will donate $2 million-worth in hardware, software and services (including Sparc processor based-servers, Solaris 10 operating system and Sun Ray systems) to help customers like hospitals, clinics and medical researchers build and test prototype applications in real-time. Customers can also demo Java-based smart card information systems and Dinmar’s Oacis EHR software running on Sun technology and interoperating with other systems. The Unix-based application uses a technology that enables the software platform to interface with proprietary laboratory, pharmacy and radiology systems and gather the data into a central repository. This allows physicians or clinicians to order drugs, X-rays and laboratory information and view the results on the Oacis platform as opposed to using disparate systems for separate functions. This also provides health-care workers with a single record of a patient’s history if they have been treated at multiple sites within a single organization.

Hendriks added there’s been some disappointment in the health-care industry around integrated systems, as projects tend to be large and take a long time to implement.

“You don’t have to throw out the baby with the bath water,” said Hendriks. “If you’re layering on top of your current systems like laboratory, radiology and pharmacy, you don’t have to get rid of vertical systems in order to have a full electronic record.”

The first phase of the project will target partners like Dinmar and customers like Queensway Carleton Hospital to participate in the centre. While Sun has yet to announce any other vendors that have signed up with the centre, Mair said Sun is looking at several potential partners including a Picture and Archival Communication System (PACS) provider and a major service provider. In the second phase, Sun will approach other potential participants including regulatory bodies. Mair confirmed Sun has already spoken with Canada Health Infoway, which he says has expressed an interest in the centre.

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