Electronic Health Record improves patient care in Central Alberta

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Residents of the Capital Health region in central Alberta have always moved freely between hospitals, emergency wards and clinics to receive care. But not so their paper medical records which were stored at the site where treatment was received.

That all changed this spring when Capital Heath launched Canada’s first region-wide electronic health record, netCARE. Vital patient information is no longer “silo-ed” within a site or facility thanks to a web-based clinical portal that now links – in real time – five million patient records from seven separate registration systems across nine hospitals, 22 public health centres, and numerous community care services and mental health programs.

“One of our greatest advancements in improving the quality and safety of patient care was giving our physicians and health-care providers immediate access to up-to-date patient information,” says Capital Health CEO and President Sheila Weatherill. By connecting the islands of information across a region that serves 1.6 million people throughout central and northern Alberta, netCARE improves the delivery of patient care and management of patient information.

For patients, the new $10 million system means more streamlined registration at any Capital Health facility and less need to recall details about tests, medications and allergies. For Capital Health, it means fewer repeated procedures and tests and caregivers who can make better-informed decisions at the point of care.

In an emergency ward, where any delay in transferring information could be critical, access to patient information was often restricted by daytime office hours or what a patient could recall. Now emergency staff can quickly look up a patient’s medical record anytime and see the most recent doctor’s messages, results of surgery, hospital discharge summaries, lab results, and medications prescribed. “netCARE not only increases efficiency in diagnosis and treatment it allows emergency physicians a more collaborative role in the continuum of patient care,” says Reverdi Darda, patient care manager at Sturgeon Community Hospital’s emergency department.

netCARE was built by a vendor consortium of international computer system companies – Sierra, Orion, Quovadx, Oracle, and HP. A team of physicians and nurses at Capital Health worked with members of the consortium on the design of the portal’s clinical browser. Early clinical input was critical to the success of the project, says Dr. Noel Gibney, Regional Program Clinical Director for Critical Care at Capital Health. “It was very important that what we designed would be useful to clinicians and used by clinicians.” In February, netCARE was piloted by 500 physicians from 10 sites and region-wide implementation began in April.

In additional to hospital staff and physicians, family physicians in the community are also signing up to access netCARE. “Every day I log onto the EHR and see a list of my patients. I know immediately if they have been admitted to a Capital Health facility,” says Dr. Anne Bowland, a family physician at an Edmonton clinic. “When a patient comes back to see me I have a more complete picture of the medical care received.”

The first phase of netCARE gives patient lists and demographics, event history with Capital Health, lab results, transcribed reports and a link to medication and allergy summaries from Alberta’s Pharmaceutical Informational Network (PIN).

The second phase, to be developed in partnership with TELUS and HP, will be a self-service public portal with a chronic disease management component.

The regional patient registry, called the Enterprise Master Person Index (EMPI), was funded by Canada Health Infoway, and will serve as a model for other jurisdictions in the development of a pan-Canadian electronic health record.