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UHN, Mount Sinai and MDS Labs create easy-to-use web access system

The University Health Network, in Toronto, has won a Canadian Information Productivity Award (CIPA) for providing its cancer specialists and those at neighboring Mount Sinai Hospital with online access to their patients’ pathology results from nearby Toronto Medical Laboratories, a large-scale facility that’s partly owned by MDS Inc.

The oncology physicians are often cross-appointed at both hospitals and split their time among the several campuses. They needed fast access to the test results of their patients, but unfortunately, this just wasn’t happening.

“Before we started this program, it literally took three to four days to get a pathology report back to the oncologists,” said Matt Anderson, vice president and CIO at the UHN. “Even if the lab faxed the report, it could still take days [due to faxing to the wrong site, busy signals and the like] and the information on the fax was often illegible.”

Using the web-based system, however, physicians could obtain the results as soon as they were ready. The award-winning system was built in-house, for mere $60,000, and uses a master patient index to integrate patient data and a simple-to-use web browser interface.

The oncology project was so successful, Anderson noted, that other hospital physicians wanted access, as well, and asked that all applications be made available. The UHN and Mount Sinai have since made many more apps available to docs at both hospitals in this way, including many types of radiology reports, laboratory, ADT, and others.

“We’ve done it all in-house,” said Anderson, noting that IT staff member Jim Forbes has been responsible for leading much of the work. He said the success of the project has encouraged  management at the hospital to re-think the strategy of buying most of what it needs from outside IT suppliers.

Moreover, the hospital has also piloted web-based hook-ups to quite a few MDS community labs. This has meant that patients can have their lab tests done at their neighborhood labs, and their physicians can obtain immediate results.
Next, the UHN intends to link its IT systems in this way to the Toronto Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), with which it has just created a joint IT department. The IT collaboration was set up so that acute and continuing care treatment plans could be better coordinated.

Anderson said that on another front, the UHN is also participating in the creation of an “intelligent web portal” with Mount Sinai Hospital and several other hospitals, universities and private sector companies. The portal project is attempting to integrate various silos of information across the continuum of care, from acute-care hospitals to physician practices, while at the same time providing care-givers with decision support tools and access to ‘best practices’ information.

It’s hoped that the software created could be used at any site across Canada or North America.

“We’re participating in both projects,” said Anderson. “We could potentially migrate from one to the other,” he said, adding that each could learn from the other.