Vancouver Coastal Health doctors prepare for clinical IT
VANCOUVER – Planning is under way at Vancouver Coastal
Health for two pilot projects expected to roll out in late 2006/early
2007: the launch of a new website for primary care physicians and
CareConnect, the VCH electronic health record.
Both initiatives will be offered to an initial group of pilot primary
care participants. More information on the pilot project selection
process will be provided when details and timing are confirmed,
according to the September edition of VCH’s Medlink newsletter.
Vancouver Coastal Health said it had put some elements of its Primary
Care IT Strategy in a holding pattern while awaiting clarification about
new funding opportunities from the BC Medical Association and the BC
Ministry of Health. Earlier this year, the two organizations announced
that funding would be forthcoming to speed up the adoption of electronic
patient record systems in physician practices.
A Physician Information Technology Office (PITO) has been set up by the
BC Medical Association and the provincial government. For its part, PITO
is coordinating the implementation of IT products and services with
vendors and physician practices, and will disburse IT funds to
Many of the initiatives being addressed by PITO, such as the EMR
funding, secure physician networks and overall provincial eHealth
solutions, relate directly to the VCH’s Primary Care IT projects.
For this reason, a decision was made to wait until roles and the project
scope have been confirmed before engaging private practice physicians
any further in the PCIT Strategy planning and implementation.
On a related note, PITO representatives were invited to attend the VCH’s
Physician User Group leaders’ meeting in July 2006 to review eHealth
priorities and opportunities associated with implementing technology in
private practice offices. A number of themes were identified, including:
• Privacy is a top priority.
• The benefits of eHealth and IT must be defined, emphasizing how
technology can save time.
• The roles and responsibilities of data stewardship – management,
storage and access – must also be defined.
• System integration is essential so lab and medical results are
delivered directly to electronic medical records (EMRs).
• Support physicians who already have EMRs; new solutions must reflect
the needs and experiences of early adopters.
• Physicians must be involved in EMRvendor selection/agreements.
• Ensure a flexible implementation strategy: physicians must be trained
and supported, with a change management approach that reflects a variety
of technology adoption levels and abilities.
• Include medical office assistants in user groups and consultation .
• Simplify legal contracts and language.
• Use a phased approach, with groupsof physicians funded on a
first-come, first-served basis.
“This meeting demonstrates a commitment from PITO to work with
physicians across the province,” says Dr. Alan Brookstone, Physician
Coordinator of the PUG Strategy. “Sessions like this one will help to
guide provincial eHealth initiatives, and are essential to ensure
meaningful physician input into planning and decision-making.”
PITO is looking for physicians to join clinical advisory groups, and
many of these participants will be selected via the VCH Physician User
Each geographic area of VCH has physicians who are early technology
adopters. These physicians are generally acknowledged by their peers to
be champions for adopting information technology (IT), and understand IT
needs and priorities in their practice community. The Physician User
Group (PUG) program aims to harness early adopters’ enthusiasm and
experience, and to support them in becoming community leaders, by
providing a mechanism for communication: a trusted peer-to-peer network
that includes an eNewsletter and face-to-face meetings.
VCH currently has eight Physician User Groups with a membership of more
than500 physicians. Over the past year, the
PUG process has facilitated face-to-face meetings with more than 150
primary care physicians and specialists in the community, and engaged
more than 100 physicians in VCH Primary Care IT Strategy working groups.
As a result, physicians have been involved in guiding and providing
feedback on the development of specific projects and technology
solutions for VCH. PUGs also provide a
“virtual” environment for all physicians, regardless of their
understanding of technology, to gain insight, education and peer advice
on applying technology in practice. More
information on VCH PUGs is available at
Additional information is available at