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Government & policy

Manitoba launches $150 million eHealth project

WINNIPEG – Manitoba’s government has announced funding of $150 million for Manitoba eHealth, a program to implement a province-wide EHR over the next three to five years. The funds will be committed to projects that have recently been implemented, are already under way or will be started this year.

Health Minister Theresa Oswald (pictured) outlined the goal of ensuring that healthcare providers across Manitoba have immediate access to a patient’s most up-to-date medical information, including recent prescriptions or medical treatment received anywhere, at any time, within the province.

“If someone is hurt or ill and can’t communicate, patients and their families deserve the comfort and security of knowing that emergency room staff can access the patient’s medical history quickly and efficiently,” said Oswald. “It is critical the right information is always available to the right care providers at the right time.”

Manitoba Health formed Manitoba eHealth in June 2006. The program is designed to provide strategic coordination and focus on the development of a province-wide health information and communication technology strategy.

“All the systems focus on the needs of doctors and nurses who require accurate information to offer the best care possible for their patients,” said Ian Fish, chief information officer of Manitoba eHealth. “These systems improve the ability of healthcare professionals to collaborate by providing online, real-time information.”

“Being able to access all information on a patient, no matter when or where in the province they have been treated, enhances the way doctors are able to diagnose patients,” said Brian Postl, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

The Manitoba eHealth program will facilitate the creation of a provincial electronic health record (EHR), a secure and private lifetime record of a patient’s health history and care within the health system in Manitoba.

The program gives healthcare providers information such as test results as soon as the information is put into the system. Once in the system, healthcare providers will have access to up-to-date information on patients whether they live in Winnipeg, Thompson or remote towns and communities throughout the province. This will help reduce replicated or redundant tests and contribute to efforts to reduce wait times.

Under the Personal Health Information Act (PHIA), only those healthcare providers who deal directly with a patient have access to patient information. This will not change with electronic health records. Manitoba eHealth’s Primary Data Centre is one of the most secure centres in the country. Only individuals with valid healthcare roles can access usernames and passwords needed to enter the system.

“As important as it is for medical staff to have critical and historical information on all their patients, it is equally important this information is protected,” said Oswald.

The first phase of the hospital information system project was launched in mid-April at St. Boniface General Hospital.