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Trillium launches Project THINK, using advanced I.T.

TORONTO and MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Trillium Health Centre has announced THINK, a $100 million project to improve the quality of patient care and to reduce costs through the innovative use of information technologies.

THINK, short for Transforming Health Care into Integrated Networks of Knowledge, is being run in alliance with eight of the world’s leading technology companies, with IBM as the project manager.

The goal is not only to improve patient safety and the quality of care inside hospitals, but to connect with referring physicians and other community care providers.

The alliance partners are:
IBM – Project Manager and Integrator
Eclipsys – Clinical Systems
Cognos – Business Intelligence Systems
Courtyard – Records Integration Systems
Sybase – Database Architecture
Agfa – Electronic Imaging Management
EMC – Data Storage
IMS – Disease Management Systems

In a packed auditorium at Trillium, hospital executives and company officials announced the initiative.

Trillium president Ken White (pictured at left) noted that in today’s healthcare environment, providers “spend too much time with paper, and not enough time with patients.”

He added that today’s computer networks are rudimentary and inefficient.

By contrast, Trillium is setting out to create the advanced, computerized tools that will facilitate communication among healthcare providers.

“Today’s healthcare model is much the same as it was a century ago, with the hospital or the doctor’s office at the centre,” said White. “Our goal is to transform today’s system and put the patient at the centre.”

White said that Trillium intends to develop standards that other hospitals and healthcare providers will be able to use. “Voluminous records will be available anywhere, anytime, to providers and patients.”

He said that patients, too, will be able to use the system – albeit not in the initial phases of the project, but likely in three to four years.

“The patient will be empowered to make decisions, so he won’t feel less important than the mounds of paper information that he’s surrounded by.”

White added that chronic care is becoming increasingly important in the healthcare system, and that patients will need to tap into their records to better monitor their own health and to update charts for the benefit of caregivers.

Trillium is allocating $100 million to THINK, over seven years, from its own budget. White said that in recent years, the organization has been allocating 3% to 4% of its annual operating budget to IT, and this will likely rise to 5% in the coming years.

In contrast, the average hospital in Canada dedicates only 2% of the annual operating budget to I.T., according to a recent study by Canadian Healthcare Technology magazine.

White said he expects that various community partners will contribute to the project in the future.

Rik Ganderton, of IBM Canada, said: “THINK is among the most advanced healthcare technology projects in North America. It will extend the walls of the hospital across the community. THINK will change how the community sees its hospitals – not simply as buildings, but as a network of medical knowledge integrated with the community itself.”

Overall, the goals of THINK are to:

• Integrate multiple healthcare records – from lab tests and radiology to pharmacology and patient scheduling – into a single, electronic patient record;

• Subject to patient approval, enable instant distribution of patient data to members of their health care team, no matter whether they are in their offices or on mobile PDAs and tablet PCs in the patient’s hospital room or home;

• Permit the healthcare team to track progress of discharged patients online, enabling a continuum of care;

• Provide connectivity between the patient and their family with the hospital, specialist, nurse, general practitioner, pharmacist, home care worker, and others involved in the continuum of care;

• Reduce wait times for diagnoses and treatment;

• Empower the patient to schedule diagnostic and other procedures online;

• Allow health care workers to spend less time on paperwork and more time with patients.

Under the terms of the alliance, the eight companies will work cooperatively to develop integrated information systems for Trillium. Each of the companies has committed to putting its staff experts at Trillium, working side-by-side with the hospital team. Trillium will define the goals, procedures and operating environment in which the information systems must be made to work. Trillium also will test applications in hospital settings.

“A sustainable healthcare system for Ontario requires that our hospitals re-think service delivery in the context of finite resources and increased demand,” said White. “The partners in THINK are tackling the biggest challenge to Medicare since its inception: how best to use technology to improve the quality, efficiency, and long-term sustainability of health service delivery in our community and across the country.”

One of the first big projects for THINK is the implementation of Computerized Physician Order Entry.

Dr. Norman Hill, acting chief of medical staff, said Trillium has already done a great deal of preparation work for this. In particular, over the past 18 months, the organization has created 150 order sets based on best practices.

“Before, every doctor would create his or her own protocols,” said Dr. Hill. “Now, everyone in the hospital will be able to use a standard protocol, based on the best evidence.”

The protocols include components such as medications, lab tests, diet, physiotherapy, and many others. He asserted that standardization, based on the best medical knowledge and best practices of the day, will lead to better outcomes for patients.

In addition, the computerized nature of the system will eliminate the handwriting and keying-in that has traditionally plagued ordering systems for drugs and tests, and that has led to medication errors and other problems in the past.

He noted that Dr. Chris O’Connor, an ICU specialist, has led the charge on CPOE order sets, chairing the committee. Order sets have now been developed for most parts of the hospital.

For its part, Trillium Health Centre is one of Canada’s leading community hospitals, with expanding tertiary care programs in cardiac care, stroke, orthopedics and neurosurgery.

Serving over one million residents in Mississauga, Southwest Toronto and from other communities across Ontario, Trillium has one of the busiest Emergency services in the country, and the largest free-standing day surgery centre in North America. The two-site facility is attracting international attention for its innovative approach to the provision of health care services.