Hospitals and community care access centres connect through Joint Chief Information Officer

Lewis Hooper and his IT colleagues face a new undertaking in health care Ñ streamlining information technologies across several partnering East Toronto-area health-care organizations.

The Scarborough Hospital, Durham Access to Care, Lakeridge Health, Rouge Valley Health System and Scarborough Community Care Access Centre appointed Lewis Hooper as new joint Chief Information Officer (CIO) in November 2004. Hooper’s position is the first appointment of this kind in Ontario where a CIO will coordinate several information systems of collaborating and partnering organizations.

“The role of the CIO is increasingly important for hospitals and community healthcare providers alike. As Ontario’s health-care system changes, information remains our second most important resource after our dedicated and caring staff,” said Dr. Tom Ward, President and CEO of The Scarborough Hospital.

Hooper has served on a number of province-wide initiatives including the Health Services Restructuring Commission and the Ontario Third Party Review, and has had significant involvement with the Joint Policy and Planning Committee (JPPC). He has also been involved in health-care reform in Nova Scotia.

Hooper will spend 40 per cent of his time on The Scarborough Hospital’s information technology, processes and management. The balance of his efforts will provide strategic leadership on a joint information management vision, strategy and implementation plan across partnering organizations.

“Although operating in silos sometimes seems easier, it’s not the right thing for patients or our organizations. This is one more step in helping us move to a true health-care system for our residents,” said Brian Lemon, CEO of Lakeridge Health.

To move its Transformation Agenda forward, the Ontario government announced, in October 2004, the creation of 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) that will plan, coordinate, integrate, manage and fund care at the local level within defined geographic areas. The appointment of the joint CIO will help meet the information needs of some of those organizations individually and collectively, improving efficiency, collaboration and accountability.

After conducting an evidence-based, rigorous program review process, based on national benchmarks, the partnering organizations identified the CIO role in June 2004 as an opportunity to pool resources and improve integration of services by having a CIO report jointly to the health-care organizations, leading to significant system wide efficiencies and cost savings.

“Over the years, we have developed many partnerships – making a big difference in the lives and care of our patients,” said Hume Martin, CEO of Rouge Valley Health System. “But we have only just scratched the surface of what we can achieve. I am excited and look forward to working with our partners in the Central East Local Health Integration Network to achieve even greater accomplishments,” he added.

“At the patient care level, our staff do an exceptional job of working together so that patients have a seamless experience within the healthcare system,” said Janet Harris, Executive Director of Durham Access To Care. “Now we need to move that strong working relationship to focus on connecting our computer and information systems which will further improve the client’s experience,” she added.

Julie Foley, Executive Director of the Scarborough CACC noted that working together and in partnership, they’d be able to combine their buying power while at the same time maximizing opportunities for sharing information leading to better patient care.

With only a few weeks on the job, Hooper has already set out to transform how information technology is implemented and used in health care.

“Traditionally it has been difficult to share information in health care. This position was created to break down those barriers. What we would like to do is set up a health-care information system where the information follows the patient wherever they go,” said Hooper.

In collaboration with The Scarborough Hospital, Durham Access to Care, Lakeridge Health, Rouge Valley Health System and Scarborough Community Care Access Centre.