August 9, 2011
eHealth Ontario has announced a $5 million investment to expand the reach of ClinicalConnect, a secure online portal providing access to electronic health care records.
The funding will accelerate the use of electronic health records to improve patient care. It will also allow the province to leverage existing systems and investments to promote regional integration. eHealth Ontario wants to build EHRs for all of Ontario by 2015.
"The reason we want to make this investment is because ClinicalConnect has proven to be a terrific tool for helping physicians, clinicians, and hospital staff look at patients' records and share them no matter where they are," said Greg Reed, president and CEO of eHealth Ontario.
ClinicalConnect was first implemented in the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network and later expanded to the Waterloo Wellington LHIN. More than 2,500 health care providers can now access and share information in real time across LHIN boundaries whether they were treated in Hamilton or received testing in Kitchener. Patients of almost 600 clinicians will benefit from the expansion, eHealth said a release.
In the HNHB LHIN, 22 hospital sites including the Juravinski Cancer Centre and the HNHB Community Care Access Centre are using ClinicalConnect to check on patients' medical histories with the click of a mouse. Instead of having to search for photocopies and follow up with other doctors, nurses and specialists, ClinicalConnect users get instant access to patient information.
"I've been in practice for 26 years, and this is the best innovation (ever)," said Dr. Barbara Teal, a family physician in Hamilton. "We are so used to not getting any information, and now we are getting a lot. That is really important for good patient care."
ClinicalConnect delivers electronic records via the Internet or mobile devices. Access is available to 28 local hospitals and two Community Care Access Centres that represent more than 2 million patients. The data arrives within seconds.
The service should cut down time spent on tracking down records and doing duplicate tests, and reduce medical errors because all information is now electronic, eHealth said. Patients will have less exposure to diagnostic imaging radiation and wait times will be reduced, the agency noted.
Physicians simply search under the name of the patient they are looking for. An abundance of information is available on admissions, allergies, blood bank, lab results, microbiology and hospital visits.
Dr. Rob Lloyd, Medical Director of Clinical Informatics at Hamilton Health Sciences, and Pediatric Intensivist at McMaster Children's Hospital, says in the past, this information would have taken days to come by.
"This is changing our care and is remarkably powerful for patient safety," said Lloyd.
If a patient has a reaction to a certain medication but doesn't know the name, a physician can look up their history and figure it out. Doctors can instantly see if a patient has any allergies or what kind of infections they've had. Test results with notes from other physicians are available, as are details on why they were previously admitted to hospital and discharged.
Because of confidentiality and privacy laws, health care providers must be granted access to use the system, a routine process done through the LHIN eHealth project management office.
Many local family physicians are already connected through the LHIN network.
"The last time I asked a group of family physicians that I was talking to how many of them are using it, 50 per cent of them put up their hands," said Lloyd.