Hospitals kick off partnership on ehealth solution to streamline patient care

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By Kathy Foisey

Establishing a shared patient record over a catchment area that includes more than 1.5 million residents is a huge undertaking.  It would also have significant benefit for patients in that region. Markham Stouffville Hospital, Southlake Regional Health Centre, and Stevenson Memorial Hospital have come together to make this a reality.  The three hospitals will be working in partnership to launch a shared electronic patient record to support seamless patient care and improve the patient experience across these three organizations.

“This partnership puts patients first in that it improves quality and seamless access to health records between the three hospitals,” says Dr. Dave Williams, president and CEO of Southlake Regional Health Centre. “As a regional centre, Southlake provides care to patients from across York Region and Simcoe County and there are tremendous benefits and efficiencies that integrated technology will provide.”

Staff from all three sites collaboratively came up with ideas on what the new endeavour will be called. SHINE – short for Shared Health Information Network Exchange, was the winner. The partners are working towards having the implementation of Meditech 6.16, the first priority in the SHINE partnership, up and running in early 2018.

Meanwhile, work is being done to prepare for the implementation, such as creating a master patient index and the merging and purging patient records. Many patients in the region visit two or more of the partner hospitals, and creating a robust, integrated system, will allow clinicians to access more information about their patients when they need it from almost anywhere. This will be particularly beneficial to patients who are cared for at multiple sites, such as cardiac and cancer patients, who receive care at both their local hospital and at one of Southlake’s regional programs.

It’s the first group of hospitals to take a cue from the Ontario government’s new eHealth 2.0 strategy, which encourages hospitals to create geographical clusters that can share computerized systems as a way of reducing costs and improving efficiency.

“We are excited to work with Southlake and Stevenson on this collaborative partnership,” says Jo-anne Marr, president and CEO of Markham Stouffville Hospital. “We believe that by working together we can maximize our resources and invest in systems and technologies that will benefit our patients. This new partnership builds on Markham Stouffville Hospital’s expertise with Meditech and we are excited to leverage this knowledge to the mutual benefit of all three organizations.”

Southlake and Stevenson will be able to leverage the expertise of Markham Stouffville Hospital, which has already achieved Stage 6 in the HIMSS EMRAM framework. Southlake and Stevenson will implement the Meditech system and Markham Stouffville Hospital will be upgrading to the latest version of Meditech’s system, Meditech systems are in use at over 50 per cent of Ontario hospitals.

“I am inspired to see this partnership unfold, and am pleased to work with two excellent organizations like Southlake and Markham Stouffville Hospital on a critical project to deliver safe, quality care, says Jody Levac, president and CEO at Stevenson Memorial Hospital. “This ground-breaking partnership allows smaller hospitals opportunities to bring optimal technology to daily operations, and ultimately improve patient experience.”

“There are substantial savings,” says Tim Pemberton, chief technology officer at Southlake. He noted that Markham Stouffville Hospital, which has been a long-time Meditech customer, was footing 100 percent of the bill for its own electronic health records system. Now that it has partners, it will bear only part of the cost of the shared solution, with the other two hospitals sharing cost proportional to the size of their organization.

Updating health information systems through this partnership will create an electronic foundation that will enable Southlake and Stevenson to more rapidly move to a fully electronic health record, joining MSH, the top ranked community hospital in Canada as ranked by Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), completing paperless records and a highly integrated health information technology systems throughout all the departments that are connected seamlessly and work efficiently, and they are connected to an electronic health record the region.

Paul Heck, CFIO of Stevenson Memorial, says “This collaboration with hospital partners in Ontario represents a remarkable opportunity to gain access to significant new technology and medical talent that a small hospital such as ours would normally not be able to achieve on its own. I believe the improving the technology and implementing this shared client record will bring great value to the partners and the community that we serve.”

Lewis Hooper, CIO of Markham Stouffville, said that Markham Stouffville will also learn from the Stevenson Memorial, a smaller hospital where clinicians and staff have learned to accomplish a lot with fewer resources. One person will often do a lot of things, and they’ve learned to do them very efficiently, Hooper asserted.

On the technological side, Hooper asserted that a shared EMR will make things easier and faster for clinicians and patients. Not only will more information be available at the touch of a few buttons, but the processes for reaching the data will be the same across all facilities – meaning that clinicians going from one site to another will know how to obtain the information without re-training.

The partners plan to deploy the patient portal component that is part of Meditech Web EHR. “It’s part of our strategy to engage our patients,” said Pemberton. He noted the system offers features like appointment scheduling, prescription renewals and an interface for contacting physicians and other clinicians. The hospitals are still in the planning stages, however, about which of the features to provide. “We’ll see what the patients want,” says Pemberton.

Kathy Foisey is a Digital Communications Associate at Markham Stouffville Hospital.

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