British Columbia expands PharmaNet
More than 500 physicians across British Columbia have embraced the new
opportunity to use the Province’s PharmaNet system in their
medical practices, since the system was expanded in December 2005 to
reach physician practices, announced Health Minister George Abbott
“This government’s expansion of PharmaNet access to medical practices
will further improve patient care and safety by making medication
histories available to authorized physicians in medical practices as
well as the existing access in hospital emergency departments,” said
Abbott. “Expansion of PharmaNet service is an example of how B.C. is
leading the country in electronic health initiatives that benefit
PharmaNet is the secure computer network that links all community
pharmacies in B.C., as well as many hospital pharmacies, to a central
In 2005, PharmaNet captured 41 million prescriptions at community
pharmacies across the province, and generated millions of warning
messages about potential medication management issues.
PharmaNet detects possible drug-to-drug interactions, ingredient
duplication in therapies, fill-too-soon or fill-too-late warnings – a
total of seven individual checks on each prescription.
These warnings are classified as to severity, and 12 percent of them are
flagged as “most significant,” helping professionals avoid serious
By making this information available in physicians’ offices, many
potential problems can be detected by the doctor when prescribing,
instead of the patient having the problem caught at the pharmacy, and
having to experience delays or even repeat visits to the physician.
Changes were made to the existing regulations so that doctors can use
PharmaNet to help ensure healthcare decisions are made based on the best
patient information available.
Province-wide Medical Practice Access to PharmaNet (MPAP) has been
available since December 2005 and has seen quick adoption with over 500
physicians already registered.
Expansion of PharmaNet access to community medical practitioners –
family doctors and specialists – throughout the province is supported by
the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.
“In the physician’s office, PharmaNet allows the physician to
immediately verify medication history rather than relying on the
patient’s memory,” said Dr Heidi Oetter, deputy registrar for the BC
College of Physicians and Surgeons. “Not only can PharmaNet improve
quality of care, with doctors being able to make more informed drug
treatment decisions, but examining a patient’s PharmaNet medication
history can reduce medication errors, duplications and avoid a dangerous
combination of different medications.”
Strict privacy measures remain in place for PharmaNet, with all accesses
to patients’ information logged, and all authorized users individually
identified. PharmaNet will continue to comply with the Province’s
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Additional steps
were taken to ensure privacy and legal considerations are addressed in
the data access agreements with physicians and the registration process.
“Projects like PharmaNet actually improve patient privacy protection
compared to paper records,” added Abbott. “There are tight restrictions
around accessing the information and every time that someone accesses
the information, they leave an electronic footprint.”
PharmaNet data expansion is a preliminary step in the ministry’s eHealth
strategy. This comprehensive set of initiatives and investments will
include significant advancements in PharmaNet’s capabilities, in
supporting pharmacists, physicians in community settings as well as
hospitals and eventually enabling citizens to access to their own health
The Province recently announced a $150-million investment for eHealth
initiatives in British Columbia. Canada Health Infoway – an independent,
not-for-profit organization – has conditionally agreed to allocate up to
approximately $120 million for eHealth initiatives in B.C. between
2005/06 and 2008/09.
The 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.