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Physician IT

2,100 more docs apply for IT funding in Ontario

TORONTO – An Ontario program to allocate $15 million to subsidize computerization efforts for 524 doctors in Family Health Groups (FHGs) drew requests for funding from over 2,100 physicians, an indication of the growing acceptance of clinical information systems by GPs.

Earlier this year, the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care agreed to allocate $15 million from the existing Physician IT Program funds to Family Health Group (FHG) physicians to implement IT in their practice. Previously, FHGs were not eligible.

The OMA’s subsidiary, OntarioMD, manages the Physician IT Program on behalf of the OMA and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The program includes:

• A selection of Clinical Management Systems (CMS) that have been approved as meeting specified security, technology, and functionality specifications for managing Electronic Medical Records and practice management information;

• A Transition Support Program designed to help physicians adopt information technology, including access to consultants and tools such as best practice guidelines;

• A Primary Care IT Funding Plan that provides a subsidy of up to $28,600 per eligible Primary Care physician to implement an approved CMS;

• OntarioMD.ca, a physician website that provides free access to popular medical journals, clinical practice guidelines, practice management tools and information, and much more.

The Physician IT Program will only fund a single approved CMS product per eligible group. In other words, to receive funding all physicians within the group must implement the same CMS. This program requirement ensures that all group members have access to the group’s patient records in order to encourage team-based care and improve on-call coverage.

Given that the initial $15 million will only subsidize a total of 524 FHG physicians, the OMA directed that an equitable method be used to distribute the available funds.

A phased application approach was established to distribute the $15 million evenly over three periods with the use of a random draw when the total amount applied for exceeded the funding available.

As expected, the demand from FHGs in the first phase of funding far exceeded the amount of funds available. Consequently, a random draw was held on September 19, 2006 to select applications from over 2,100 individual physicians in 191 groups. As a result, 175 physicians in 23 groups will be funded to implement an approved CMS.

In a letter posted on the OntarioMD web site, OMA president David Bach said: “While it is disappointing for the majority of applicants who were not selected in the first round of funding, those groups will have additional opportunities to be chosen in the next two funding periods.

“The enthusiastic response from FHGs is a clear indication of interest and willingness on behalf of physicians to adopt IT,” said Bach. “The OMA will carry this strong message to the Ministry and advocate for additional IT funding for all physicians.”

For more information about the Physician IT Program, visit online www.ontariomdTSP.ca.

 

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