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Results reporting

Nova Scotia to fix medical-records software glitch

HALIFAX -- The Nova Scotia government is spending $175,000 to improve the electronic system it uses to send patient test results to doctors after some records went astray last year.

Health Minister Chris d’Entremont told the Halifax Chronicle Herald that he accepts all of the recommendations in a consultant’s report on the problem, which verified that a software error caused duplicate records, or charts, to be issued for the same patient.

“Work has already started in implementing improvements,” said d’Entremont.

Among other things, the report recommends improving monitoring procedures and putting the system on a separate computer server by the summer.

The problem affected about 1,000 patients and 98 doctors when it was discovered last September.

The lab results and diagnostic test results that went astray were wide ranging, including blood tests, skin swabs, X-rays, MRI results and CT scans.

The province assured patients that no one suffered as a result of the software error that caused the problem. The electronic record system is part of a larger management network that allows a patient’s medical information from any clinic, hospital, or other medical service to be stored in one electronic health record.

About 32 percent of physicians in the province receive patient records electronically

Problems with electronic medical records began occurring in January 2007. The Health Department only identified the computer problem on Sept. 13, when a doctor telephoned officials.

All of the changes to the system will be completed by the end of 2009, the government said in a news release.

“Errors sometimes happen in complex systems such as this one,” said d’Entremont. “As a result of this review, tools and procedures are being put in place to ensure any future errors are quickly identified and solved.”