Manitoba teams with IBM for EHR system

The Government of Manitoba is undertaking a $22.5-million project to create an electronic health-care records system. As opposed to building the system from scratch, the province is relying on IBM Corp. to implement an EHR software package from dbMotion Ltd.


The dbMotion Solution gives doctors and nurses secure, real-time access to integrated clinical information, which might include the type of medications a patient is using or a historical list of the medical tests they’ve been subjected to. Currently, Manitoba’s medical records are housed on a variety of systems that are unable to interact with each other.


The system’s first phase launch is planned for the end of 2010 and will deliver “view capability” to health-care professionals working in select clinics and emergency rooms, according to Rick Guerard, the project director in charge at Manitoba.


For Roger Girard, the CIO at Manitoba eHealth, the decision to buy commercial, off-the-shelf software represents standard practice at the province, with IBM meeting about 80 per cent of the company’s requirements right out of the box.


He added that the project is not going to be completed overnight, as the system will eventually grow into a broad platform that even includes patient consultant reports.


“We’re starting out with labs and drugs and will eventually broaden out to other things,” said Girard. “The system will improve safety, improve clinical decision-making, and will result in fewer errors in the system, which are encountered today because of information not being available at the point of care.”


In addition to rolling out the first phase and working with the province to get staff ready to use the system, IBM’s agreement also covers a second phase deployment. Giovanni Vatieri, a partner specializing in health care for IBM’s Global Business Services group, expects a second release in 2011 to expand access to more clinics and allow for sharing between EHR and other medical records.


Vatieri added that he believes Manitoba will end up winning the EHR race and become the first live solution to deploy in Canada. Getting the value of EHR as quickly as possible is something that every province should strive for, he added.


Earlier this month, Bill Crounse, a medical doctor who is Microsoft’s worldwide health senior director, said the best way to prevent wasteful spending and actually improve health care is to think about technology as a way to streamline health processes.


“Health-care organizations are getting so caught up, and in many ways distracted, by the (electronic health records) discussion and are not thinking about the ways in which technologies can be used to transform medical practice,” he said.


The advice comes just a few months after government leaders and health-care organizations in Ontario made front page news for spending hundreds of millions hiring contractors and purchasing technology in a largely fruitless effort to build an EHR system.


For IBM, rolling out dbMotion is the easiest part of the process and that the real effort will be spent on making sure the correct processes are in place and making sure people know how to use the technology.


The company also noted that funding for Manitoba’s EHR system was provided by both the province and Canada Health Infoway.

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