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Physician IT

Nova Scotia set to announce preferred solutions for physician IT

Next month, in November, Nova Scotia is expected to announce the ‘preferred software vendors’ for its Primary Health Care Information System Program. The province is investing $4.1 million in the first phase of a program to computerize its physician offices, and aims to have 150 to 200 medical practices using computers and clinical software by 2006.

Like Alberta, the provincial program in Nova Scotia is backing two types of systems: a local client/server solution, with the server located in the physician practice; and an ASP solution, in which an-offsite data centre handles the needs of multiple doctors’ office using a private network.

One or two vendors are expected to be chosen as preferred providers of client server solutions, while one vendor will be selected as the preferred ASP provider.

At the moment, there are four vendors who have been short-listed for client/server solution, and another four under consideration for the ASP model.

Nova Scotia officials have been conducting a rigorous due diligence process to assess the various solutions. They are seeking the application that best suits the needs of the province.

Unlike physician IT programs in Alberta and Ontario, in which governments are splitting the cost of computerizing with qualifying physicians, Nova Scotia intends to pay the whole shot – at least in the initial stages of the program, including equipment, training and change management.

Nova Scotia’s Primary Health care IS Program is a component of a $17 million effort to improve the delivery of primary care in the province. The funding has been supplied through Health Canada’s Primary Health Care Transition Fund.

The goal of the technology project is to increase the use of electronic patient records among family doctors and general practitioners in Nova Scotia, and thereby obtain all of the attendant benefits – such as faster access to lab results, higher accuracy on patient charts and prescriptions, and work process improvement for physicians.

The electronic record system that Nova Scotia intends to implement will include:

• encounter progress notes;
• electronic prescribing;
• automated chart summary;
• lab investigation management;
• work queue for managing a ‘to do’ list;
• electronic scheduling;
• claims processing.

In order to qualify for the program, Nova Scotia physician practices must meet the following criteria.

• Clinics must implement the electronic patient record from the list of preferred software vendors. Those that have already implemented information systems and want to expand to include the electronic patient record are also able to participate in the project. They will have to demonstrate how they use funds from the primary health care transition fund if funds were available to them.

• Clinics must include at least two primary healthcare providers. Providers do not have to work from the same site. Providers could potentially be working remotely but all must be accessing the same electronic patient records.

• The clinic must be the patient’s main source of primary healthcare services. A community health centre with a variety of healthcare providers would satisfy these criteria, whereas a walk-in clinic would not.

• The entire clinic must support the transition. Support staff and clinical staff must be made aware of what this change implies and must be willing to commit to the change.

The Primary Health Care Information Program is also developing a change management program to assist the clinics with system implementation. The services will include a variety of tools, templates, guides and training exercises to help introduce information technology into primary healthcare organizations.

Clinics interested in participating are asked to identify a provider champion willing to guide and lead the clinic through the implementation process. Change champions will receive specialized training to successfully implement and manage primary healthcare information systems projects.