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Electronic records

Alberta pumps $116 million into EMR development

EDMONTON – Alberta announced an investment of an additional $116-million in the provincial electronic health record system. The cash infusion will finance technology enhancements, including hardware and software needed to update both inpatient and ambulatory information systems.

“This funding keeps Alberta at the forefront in leading-edge technology, supporting a healthcare system considered one of the best in the country,” said Iris Evans (pictured), Minister of Health and Wellness.

The additional funding comes in a year of significant progress for Alberta Netcare, the electronic health record system.

By the end of March 2006, more than 300 healthcare professionals will pilot an enhanced Alberta Netcare, which will provide users with a more intuitive and easy-to-access system.

The upgrades will also give physicians across the province access to text reports of diagnostic imaging results for the first time. Diagnostic images will be accessible early in 2007, but for now, healthcare professionals will be able to access the detailed analysis of results.

This year also marks a milestone for the availability of lab test results on Alberta Netcare. More than 55 percent of lab test results conducted in the province are now available electronically, with 85 percent expected to be available this summer.

Starting this month (March 2006), Alberta’s pharmacists will be able to access lab test results for the first time, enabling them to provide more comprehensive advice to their clients about their prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.

“Health experts around the world agree that the implementation of an electronic health record is crucial to improving patient safety,” said Evans. “Adding new information, such as diagnostic imaging information, and providing more access to health professionals, are significant leaps forward in Alberta Netcare’s development.”

Alberta Netcare is a secure and protected record of Albertans’ key health information. The information is available only to authorized professionals in community clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and other points of care to enhance quality of care and patient safety.

Recent studies in Canada found that for every 1000 laboratory and radiology tests performed, up to 150 are unnecessary and for every 1000 patient visits with a specialist, specialists received no patient information for 680 of those visits.

Alberta Netcare helps bridge the information gaps that compromise the quality and productivity of Alberta’s health care system.

Alberta Netcare overview

• In January 2005, Premier Ralph Klein announced that by January 2008, every Albertan will have an electronic health record.

• Approximately 570,000 Albertans have health information on the system, and the province is on track to achieve the goal of having all Albertans on board by 2008.

• More than 17,000 healthcare providers are registered to use Alberta Netcare.

• Alberta Netcare includes: lab test results, prescriptions, allergies and intolerances, and now diagnostic imaging text results (with images following in 2007).

• Electronic health records were a key recommendation of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Health, and later endorsed by the Kirby and Romanow health commissions.

The Benefits of an Electronic Health Record

• Improved access: Critical patient information available instantly at the point of care, results in better and faster diagnosis and treatment.

• Improved quality: Information and decision-support tools result in fewer medical errors and adverse drug events.

• Improved productivity. Reduced administrative time and costs and fewer unnecessary duplicate lab tests ordered. Better patient care coordination among health care providers.

Protecting Privacy and Confidentiality

• Only authorized healthcare providers are able to access the least amount of information in Alberta Netcare required to treat patients. Each access to a patient record is recorded electronically.

• Alberta Netcare is highly secure, with an advanced authentication and authorization system.

• Alberta’s Health Information Act further protects patient privacy. Providers in violation of the Act are subject to fines and disciplinary action by their regulatory body.