Newfoundland begins primary care IT
By Neil Zeidenberg
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Primary Health Care Enhanced Information Technology
Project is now up and running in all four of its test sites.
It’s a joint provincial EMR initiative of Newfoundland and Labrador’s
Department of Health and Community Services, the Centre for Health
Information, and Eastern Health, in conjunction with
the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association.
The Newfoundland Drive Family Practice clinic in St. John’s, and the
Memorial University Family Practice’s Ross Centre clinic went live in
November; the two remaining test sites went live in
Vancouver-based Wolf Medical Systems won the bidding as lead vendor
based on two major factors, functionality and price.
“There were other good vendors in the mix,” commented Mike Barron, CEO
of Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information (NLCHI), but
added that Wolf best met our requirements.
The Wolf Medical Suite encompasses four separate modules – billing,
scheduling, workflow and clinical. “It does everything to allow a
physician to practice chartless,” said Dr. Brendan Byrne, Principal and
co-Founder of Wolf Medical Systems.
The initial task is to develop an EMR system for use by 27 physicians at
two practices spread across four locations in St. John’s. Based on the
results of this “pilot study,” it will provide insight into the
development of a region-wide EMR plan.
“It’s only a pilot in the sense that what we learn here will help shape
the ideas around getting a strategic plan for the province and how EMRs
are rolled out overall,” said Barron.
The infrastructure in the four clinics has been mostly paper-based,
though they do have limited access to the regional hospital’s
information system, which they can use to view their patients’ lab
results. The University practice already had an electronic charting
system in place, but it was based on older technology.
With funding from the Government of Newfoundland and
Labrador, they’ll get a state-of-the-art EMR suite; lab
information will be integrated from the regional health authority in St.
John’s, and clinicians expect to have access to radiology reports and
The EMR initiative is just one of many provincial health information
projects supporting the development of a provincial eHealth information
system; one that includes a client registry, a pharmacy network and
Although diagnostic images are already being shared between clinics and
hospitals in Newfoundland and Labrador, the pharmacy network is about
two years away from going live in community pharmacies. “Timing-wise, we
hope EMR vendors will be able to meet the required timeline of two to
three years,” said Barron. “If they’re HL-7 ready by then, they’ll be
able to play with us.”
It’s believed one of the key challenges ahead will be physician
adoption. They need physicians to understand the value of EMRs and to
get to a level of readiness where technology is used to deliver
healthcare. “If we can do that, the whole health system will be better
off,” said Barron.
As for Wolf Medical Systems, the win in Canada’s “Far East” means they
now have physician users from coast-to-coast. In fact, 1,100 physicians
at 325 sites are already using the Wolf EMR Suite for their daily
activities. The company recently struck a deal with Northwest
Territories, and is a leading EMR developer in western Canada with users
in BC and Alberta. It has also made progress in Ontario and New