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Physician IT

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 physicians.

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 Groups.

Background
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.

PUG facts
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 http://primarycare.vch.ca/pugs. Additional information is available at www.vch.ca/medlink.

 

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