Alberta selects vendors for EMR
EDMONTON – Alberta will now fund
only five Electronic Medical Record systems for its doctors, a
development that’s sure to shake up the physician IT sector. In order to
continue receiving financial incentives, many physicians will be
required to migrate to solutions that have been approved by the
government-backed Physician Office Systems Program (POSP).
In late July, the POSP announced that Practice Solutions, Med Access and
Wolf Medical Systems were selected as the ‘shortlisted’ vendors. These
companies and their solutions will now be evaluated for conformance to
POSP standards and usability. Once this testing phase has been passed,
master contracts will be signed between the vendors and the POSP.
According to a POSP news release, the shortlisted EMR products are
expected to be available to Alberta physicians in late 2008 or early
Earlier this year, POSP announced that solutions from two other vendors
– Epic and EMIS, would be supported with funding if selected for use by
physicians. Epic had been chosen by Capital Health, in Edmonton, as a
regional solution, while the Calgary Health Region had opted for EMIS.
A total of five solutions will be available to physicians practising
medicine in Alberta, down from the current 13. In order to qualify for
funding in the future, all Alberta physicians (working outside of
hospitals) will need to use one of the systems certified by the POSP.
Surprisingly, Clinicare and Jonoke, major EMR vendors based in Alberta
with many users in the province, were not on the shortlist.
Observers have commented that the reduction in certified EMR vendors is
bizarre in a province like Alberta, which has traditionally prided
itself as free market-promoter, and has been a staunch opponent of
In recent months, the province has made other puzzling – and
uncharacteristic – moves in healthcare.
In particular, in May it eliminated all 12 independent health boards,
creating one superboard that will control all health delivery in the
province. As a result, the Ministry of Health will have more direct
control over the delivery of healthcare.
The decision to reduce the number of funded EMR solutions in Alberta was
made during recent tri-lateral negotiations between Alberta Health and
Wellness, the Alberta Medical Association and the POSP.
According to an official release, the aim was to develop enhanced
abilities in the clinical management systems offered to Alberta
Some of the enhanced features include:
• Hosted, data-centre based solutions.
• Improved system reliability and service levels.
• Improved support for data conversion from one physician office system
• Improved validity, accuracy and integrity of information.
• Improved sharing between a physician’s electronic medical record and
provincial and regional systems.
• Standardized terminology.
• Alignment with emerging pan-Canadian standards.
• Best practice clinical processes and care pathways
While physicians will be required to shift to one of the five certified
systems in the future, in order to obtain POSP funding, some members of
the industry speculate that many doctors are likely to forgo the funding
in order to maintain their existing EMR solution.
That’s because switching over to a new system could be too
time-consuming. Some physicians may fear possible disruptions in service
and workflow, which would in turn affect their ability to see and treat