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Province signs deal to bring electronic health records to Nova Scotia

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The Nova Scotia government has signed a $365 million contract to bring electronic medical records to the state. Officials said Wednesday that the move is a game-changer in how patient care is managed.

Health Minister Michelle Thompson said the system will begin a phased rollout within two years and the first computer portal will be ready within 10 months.

This change reflects long-standing complaints from health care providers about dealing with inefficient record-keeping systems and outdated technology, as well as having to repeat their medical history every time they go to the hospital or see their doctor. We get to the core of the complaints from patients who are frustrated by what they have to do. A new provider, Thompson said.

“Both are right,” she told reporters at a press conference in Halifax.

Dr. Christy Bussey is Medical Executive Director, Central Zone, Nova Scotia Health. (Robert Short/CBC)

Nova Scotia’s system uses “20th century methods” such as telephone, fax, and paper to record and share patient information, as well as various computer systems that cannot communicate with each other. The state is one of the few states still using a paper-based system, officials said.

“We need to get out of working on paper,” Dr. Christy Bussey, the executive director of health care for the Central Zone at the Department of Health, told reporters.

“We need to get into digital ways of providing care.”

The new system, known as the One Patient One Record (OPOR), is a “web of communication” that will lead to better and more timely decisions for patients, Thompson said. The system will track what is happening across the state’s regional hospitals, QEII Health Science Center and IWK Health Center in real time, improving the ability to see patients, reducing wait times for surgeries, and reducing acute care. Treatment bed usage should be more efficient.

It took many years to get to this point. The tender was issued for the first time in 2015, when he was under the previous Liberal government. Officials said Wednesday that four firms responded to calls for bids in 2017 before the field narrowed to two in 2020. The process was paused during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A man standing in front of a flag.
Brian Sandager is Vice President of Oracle Cerner Canada. Nova Scotia is his ninth state to acquire a system from the company. (Robert Short/CBC)

Oracle Cerner Canada, a division of US-based high-tech giant Oracle Corp., recently learned that it was the winner of a 10-year deal and contract to design, build and maintain the system.

Brian Sandager, Vice President of Oracle Cerner Canada, said the company will start with a model tailored to the country’s healthcare system and then adapt it based on the needs of practitioners. Nova Scotia is his ninth state to sign a deal with Oracle.

The contract with Oracle does not include operating costs, and government officials said Wednesday only that those costs will fluctuate and be updated annually through the annual budgeting process. Thompson said the state wants financial support from the federal government.

Wednesday’s press conference focused squarely on what OPOR can do for Nova Scotia’s warped health care system.

In its most basic sense, OPOR allows healthcare providers anywhere in the state to see what’s happening in real time as patients enter the acute care system. This means paramedics, emergency department doctors, nurses, and specialists have access to the same updated information about the patient.

Lab tests and other diagnostic results can be instantly uploaded to the system and can also be communicated with emergency responders, continuous care staff, and mental health services, including the SchoolsPlus program.

“I’ve rarely been in a room with so many happy doctors,” Thompson, who worked as a registered nurse and care manager before entering politics, joked.

A woman standing in front of a flag.
Dr. Leisha Hawker is President of Doctors Nova Scotia. (Robert Short/CBC)

One of those happy doctors was Dr. Leisha Hawker.

The president of Doctors Nova Scotia said it has been more than a decade since he first heard the discussion of one electronic file per patient, and he hopes it will be far more efficient than the current situation. rice field.

“I’m calling the resident… on call, talking to the head nurse who’s trying to hound the nurse who’s caring for that patient, or calling the room directly to see what’s going on.” I’m trying to find out what’s going on. Please help me plan my discharge with them,” Hawker told reporters.

Dr. Steve Lownie returned to work in Nova Scotia in 2020 after 37 years of training and working as a neurosurgeon in Ontario.

Lownie said he left the hospital system in London, Ontario, with OPOR, but found a hospital system in Halifax that used technology that was more than a decade older than his previous workplace.

“I felt like I was back in time,” he told reporters.

A bald man with glasses stands in front of a flag.
Dr. Steve Lownie, a neurosurgeon, says OPOR will make a big difference to patient care in Nova Scotia. (Robert Short/CBC)

Like other doctors speaking Wednesday, Lownie praised the efficiencies OPOR creates. This allows doctors and other practitioners to spend more time treating patients and less time waiting for paperwork and people to return calls and faxes.

OPOR reduces medication errors and eliminates concerns about order and record readability. This is because they are entered into a computerized system that is consistent across the state.

“This is the biggest event since the MRI,” said Lownie. “This is a game changer and it’s going to be really great for the people of Nova Scotia.”

future work

Primary care providers will be able to view their OPOR through the new system and digitally request professional referrals, consultations and tests, Bussey said, but they can also create their own charts and progress notes. cannot be added.

Many primary care providers have their own medical record systems that can be viewed by people using OPOR. Bussey said future work will explore ways to further connect OPOR with primary care providers’ existing electronic medical record systems, or how he can bring it all together into one entity.

Opposition politicians welcomed the news of the deal but said it was important for the government to speak frankly to the public about the costs of operating the system when information became available.

Bussey and Thompson were part of a team from Nova Scotia that toured Vancouver General Hospital, where OPOR was deployed. Both companies were stuck with how the transition went smoothly after thorough preparation and how it improved the practitioner’s workflow.

“They loved it,” Thompson said.

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