ConnectingOntario: Hospitals begin contributing data

BY NORM TOLLINSKY

One of the most important advances in eHealth is about to revolutionize health-care delivery in Ontario.
Within the next few months, every hospital in northeastern and northwestern Ontario will be contributing patient health care data to ConnectingOntario, which already includes data from several other sources, including home and community care, the Ontario Laboratory Information System and the Digital Health Drug Repository.
ConnectingOntario will enable province-wide sharing of health data, allowing primary care providers and hospital clinicians to access patient health information, including cardiovascular, neurophysiology, respiratory, diagnostic imaging, ER and lab reports, as well as infection control information, hospital discharge summaries, medication information from hospitals and allergy information.
In the northwest, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Care Group and the Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital will begin contributing data in January. Atikokan General Hospital and Geraldton District Hospital will follow shortly thereafter and by the end of the fiscal year, every hospital in the northwest will be contributing data to ConnectingOntario, said Caroline Harding, project manager with the North West Health Alliance for ConnectingOntario – Northern and Eastern Region.
In the northeast, West Parry Sound Health Centre flipped the switch Nov. 23, and by the end of February, all 23 hospitals in the northeast will be onboard, said Sylvie Dubreuil, project manager with Health Sciences North (HSN).
Harding and Dubreuil and their teams in Thunder Bay and Sudbury are also reaching out to primary care providers to instruct them on gaining access to the system.
“OntarioMD has taken that under their wing, so we would refer them to OntarioMD and they would get the process going,” said Harding. “There are some requirements. Primary care providers have to sign a legal agreement with eHealth Ontario and undergo a privacy and security assessment, which involves answering a series of questions.”
Proper policies need to be in place, but eHealth Ontario has templates available.
There is no special hardware or software required. All that’s needed is a compatible web browser, an ID and a password. Training can be provided upon request, but it’s fairly straightforward and easy to figure out, said Harding.
Hospital clinicians can access the portal from their hospital information system.
Primary care providers are expected to begin signing up en masse as more and more hospitals in Northern Ontario begin contributing data. They will also be able to access information about their patients from hospitals elsewhere in the province, and if someone from Thunder Bay, for example, ends up in hospital in Toronto, clinicians there will be able to access patient information from Thunder Bay Regional.
ConnectingOntario is expected to make clinical decision-making more efficient, speed access to patient information and reduce the number of unnecessary tests.
Some clinicians currently have access to drug and lab data, but have to use different viewers or applications, explained Gaston Roy, vice-president, organizational performance, and chief information officer at HSN. “ConnectingOntario consolidates all of this data in one viewer versus trying to log in to multiple applications.”
Longer term, primary care providers will also contribute data from their electronic medical record systems, according to the ConnectingOntario roadmap, but that will be a little more complicated because of the number of different EMR systems and the need for vendors to develop and roll out software updates.
Primary care providers in Northern Ontario currently access hospital discharge reports and lab information from an application called Physician Office Integration (POI).

A new OntarioMD product, called Hospital Report Manager (HRM), in use elsewhere in the province, is due toreplace POI, but doesn’t provide access to lab information, hence the reluctance to abandon POI at this time.

 

Filed in: News, Technology

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