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E-Health Records

Alberta health regions to install new Meditech systems

RED DEER, Alta. – Seven rural health regions in Alberta have agreed to implement a shareable electronic patient record system, using Meditech's software.

The initiative will cost $92 million; the Alberta government will contribute $64 million over the course of implementation, with the health regions adding $28 million. With one shared data centre to be located in Red Deer, the health regions will save an estimated $27 million over the seven-year implementation phase of the project.

The Regional Shared Health Information Program replaces separate and aging clinical information systems, responsible for items such as tracking physician orders for tests and medications, scheduling patient tests or procedures. Modern clinical information systems are an essential element in reducing duplication of service and preventing error.

“Patient safety is of the utmost importance. This initiative affords us an opportunity to improve critical factors related to patient safety -- access to the system, and accurate and timely provision of information," said Gary Mar, Minister of Health and Wellness (pictured at left).

The program will enable these regions to link to the Alberta Electronic Health Record, which allows physicians, pharmacists, hospitals, home care and other providers across the province to securely share pertinent patient information.

The successful candidates in the procurement process are Medical Information Technology Inc. (Meditech), which will supply the software, and JJWild, which will provide project management services. Both vendors are from Massachusetts.

Northern Lights and David Thompson health regions will adopt the new system first, as their current vendors will cease to provide technical support in the next few months. Other regions will follow in the years to come.

"The health regions have worked collaboratively to develop a plan to address our information technology needs, and to provide the infrastructure for a common electronic health record," said Gil Tourigny, Chinook Health Region CEO and chair of the committee overseeing the project. "We're pleased about the benefits this project will bring to the nearly one million Albertans who receive care in these regions."

"Taking opportunities to improve access to the system and the quality of care Albertans receive in these communities is vital, especially when one considers these seven health regions deliver more than one-third of the clinical activity in the province," added Mar.

The seven rural health regions are responsible for delivering patient care to more than one million Albertans living in the Chinook, Palliser, East Central, David Thompson, Aspen, Peace Country and Northern Lights health regions.

According to Alberta Health and Wellness, some health regions do not have a modern clinical information system, and some of those are in need of replacement. At the moment there are five different clinical and six different financial systems operating in these regions. This initiative will bring all seven rural RHAs under one information system, which will address clinical and financial information requirements.

Expected benefits include:

• Improved quality of care through a link with the Alberta Electronic Health Record;
• Improved access to health services;
• Improved operational effectiveness by introducing state-of-the-art systems to manage clinical activities such as physician orders for medications or tests;
• Improvements in: accuracy and timely provision of clinical information,
• ability to meet provincial reporting requirements, and participation in provincial IT initiatives;
• Common standards will improve the ability to share information, resources and expertise;
• $27 million in cost savings achieved during implementation by adopting a common system.

The Regional Shared Health Information Program will ‘plug in’ to the Alberta Electronic Health Record, in the same way other "regional" electronic health records will, such as Capital Health's NetCare program.