box10.gif (1299 bytes)







Decision support

New electronic tools for mental health and addictions

VICTORIA – The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) will become the first healthcare organization in Canada to use decision-support technology for mental health and addictions clinicians and clients, according to VIHA CEO Howard Waldner (pictured). The new system will enable clinicians and clients to make more informed decisions about their care.

With the help of a $1.8 million investment from Canada Health Infoway’s Innovation and Adoption program, VIHA will implement electronic tools to match mental health and addictions clients with the most appropriate care in the community.

“We are grateful for Canada Health Infoway’s investment in this innovative project,” Waldner said. “By leveraging VIHA’s electronic health record system and introducing new web-based decision support technology, we can provide our clinicians with comprehensive information at the point of care, allowing them to make the best possible treatment decisions based on their clients’ needs.”

As in many other Canadian jurisdictions, VIHA clinicians do not currently have a standardized method for identifying and recording clients’ needs and risks, nor do they have access to an inventory of services available in the community. With paper-based processes still being used to document clinical information and refer clients to community-based services, transfer of critical health information and treatment can be delayed

“Electronic health initiatives are improving and modernizing the delivery of better, faster and safer health care,” said BC Health Minister George Abbott. “BC is leveraging investment and partnership opportunities from Canada Health Infoway to lead the country in developing electronic health information systems and we may see achievements in BC replicated in other jurisdictions.”

“This is a remarkable example of electronic tools supporting the needs of patients with acute or chronic conditions,” said Richard Alvarez, Infoway’s President and CEO. “This innovative solution will help reduce wait times and lead to more appropriate care. It could also serve as a model for other jurisdictions across the country,” he added.

With Infoway’s investment, VIHA’s Mental Health and Addictions Services team and Information Management/Information Technology staff will work closely with two of their existing technology providers, Cerner and Strata HealthSolutions, to develop standardized electronic assessments forms and decision support tools specific to mental health and addictions needs.

Clinicians will document a client’s assessments in Cerner’s PowerChart tool. Using that information, Strata Health’s web-based Strata PathWays’ tool will provide access to a real-time inventory of mental health and addictions services available in the community that meet the needs of the specific client.

VIHA expects it will take approximately 24 months to develop, test and implement the new electronic tools and train staff to use the new technology.

Strata PathWays is part of the BC eHealth initiative to build an integrated, electronic system that improves outcomes for patients by making their specific information available in hospitals, doctor’s offices – wherever and whenever they need to seek healthcare services.

Strata Health Solutions is a privately held Canadian corporation that is a leading provider of patient flow solutions and information technology advancement within the healthcare sector. For more information about StrataHealth Solutions Inc., visit Cerner is a leading supplier of healthcare information technology, with more than 1,500 clients worldwide (

Canada Health Infoway has conditionally agreed to allocate up to approximately $120 million for eHealth initiatives in British Columbia between2005/06 and 2008/09. The BC Ministry of Health is investing an additional$30 million over the same period to support the development of eHealth initiatives that will help health professionals deliver better, faster and safer patient care.

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.