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eHealth Collaboratory aims to test and improve EMRs

TORONTO – The eHealth Collaboratory – an independent facility to test the ability of electronic health record solutions to meet industry standards – has been officially launched.

The $10 million facility is located at the University Health Network in downtown Toronto. The Collaboratory is a joint initiative of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation (which is operated by the University Health Network and the University of Toronto) and Canada Health Infoway.

For its part, Infoway has contributed $2 million to the Collaboratory.

Not only is the Collaboratory assessing how EMR solutions conform to standards. It is also helping vendors and healthcare providers collaborate on solutions to an urgent problem in the e-Health sector – the inability of many systems to talk to each other.

It has been noted that until systems interoperate quickly and seamlessly, many clinicians won’t bother using them.

At a launch event held in early May, the Collaboratory celebrated its first success.

As a ‘proof of concept’, it announced that 10 vendors had worked together to create an interoperable, electronic health-record solution.

Through this initiative, vendors collaborated on a project dubbed the “Physician’s Office of the Future.”

As part of the project, family practice physicians worked closely with the Collaboratory’s ‘human factor’ specialists to provide feedback on clinical applications, via end-user usability assessments.

The following vendors participated in this phase:

• B-Sharp Technologies (B Care)
• Dapasoft (Long-term Care Solution)
• Dinmar (Oacis)
• Initiate Systems Inc. (Identity Hub)
• KATSI Canada (MedAZ)
• MDI Solutions (MD Link)
• Sentillion Inc (Vergence)
• VisualMED Solutions
• xwave (Centricity Physician Office EMR)

Dr. Alex Jadad (pictured), Director of the Centre and Co-Chair of the eHealth Collaboratory, thanked the vendor participants for “their commitment to an innovative approach to interoperable standards-based EHR solutions for Canada that will be a model not only here, but around the world.”

Richard Alvarez, CEO of Infoway, observed that “quality and safety in the healthcare system now form the bottom line,” and that new technologies are becoming increasingly important to improvements in these areas.

“This Collaboratory gives us the opportunity to test everything out, said Alvarez.

Alvarez noted that participation in the Collaboratory is voluntary, but he urged vendors to become involved in the centre’s testing processes. “Buyers will be more assured if you’re certified,” he said.

While located in Toronto, the Collaboratory will have a national focus. CIOs from provinces and health regions across Canada are already involved; several were in attendance at the launch meeting, including regional and government CIOs from Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.

Said Dennis Giokas, Infoway’s Chief Technology Officer: “The Collaboratory will be pan-Canadian, and will operate at arm’s length from Infoway.”

Vendors at the meeting mentioned some of the benefits they’ve already obtained by working with the Collaboratory. Said Terry Durette, Vice-President, Sales and Service, MDI Solutions: “Speaking from a vendor perspective, I was wowed by the Collaboratory team who successfully linked software from six separate vendors in less than three months, and demonstrated a cohesive Electronic Health Record model.”

A developer of EMRs noted the R&D benefits his company derived through access to clinicians at the Collaboratory; yet another vendor said his company did a usability assessment at the centre, with important results that were immediately transferred to a real-world setting in nursing homes.

Vendors were selected from among 61 respondents to the Collaboratory’s Request for Expression of Interest issued in August 2005.

New projects are now in the works at the Collaboratory.

For more information about the eHealth Collaboratory, please go to

About Canada Health Infoway
Infoway is an independent not-for-profit organization that invests with public sector partners across Canada to implement and reuse compatible health information systems which support a safer, more efficient healthcare system. These systems provide healthcare professionals with rapid access to complete and accurate patient information, enabling better decisions about treatment and diagnosis. The result is a sustainable, healthcare system offering improved quality, accessibility and productivity.

About the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation
The Centre for Global eHealth Innovation’s facilities include 15,000 square feet of space located in the heart of Toronto’s technological, academic and commercial core. The lab facilities of the Centre include a state-of-the art Usability Laboratory and a Multi-Tasking Simulation Laboratory exclusively dedicated to the study of eHealth innovations. Labs are equipped with multi-media technologies, testing rooms with observation space, and props and theatre staging sets that simulate virtually any setting where health-related decisions are made (clinics, hospital wards, operating theatres, pharmacies, emergency rooms, homes, workplaces). Using the physical facilities of the Centre and its powerful virtual infrastructure, technology experts, usability professionals, research methodologists, project managers, knowledge management specialists and end users (clinicians, members of the public, policy-makers and administrators) work on diverse projects along with partners and associates from across Canada and around the world, building economies of scale to accelerate the transformation of the health system in the information age.