Patients to manage own diseases in Ontario

Help is on the way — via electronics — for patient’s who want to manage their chronic diseases all by themselves.

The afflicted, as well as pharmacists, in Sault Ste Marie should soon be able to access relevant medical information through Group Health Centre’s (GHC) electronic medical record (EMR).

The Soo EMR is a joint effort of the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA), Canada Health Infoway and GHC.

The $3.5-million dollar initiative will serve as a model for other medical facilities to base similar projects on, according to Sherrie Hertz, director, Pharmacy Programs, OPA.

“We are all really excited because we see this as a model for the rest of the province and even the country,” said Hertz. “We’re able to integrate the expertise of the pharmacists and work collaboratively with physicians and physicians will benefit from expertise as well as the patients.”

In a Leger Marketing survey 98 per cent of 1,000 Ontarians interviewed said they trust their pharmacist to give them helpful and accurate information.

At GHC a “huge number of health care providers are working with physicians,” said Tommy Cheung, director of IT and E-health, OPA.

“They were missing pharmacists,” said Cheung. “Pharmacies have always been around the GHC since the beginning.”

Just like any other community you find pharmacies on every corner, that’s why they haven’t been really, truly integrated with the team, he said.

Patients will now have access to their medical record through a patient portal, said Richard Alvarez, president and CEO, Infoway. The project is “unique.”

“They are bringing the patient into it because they are allowing the patient to have access,” said Alvarez. “Certainly, the congestive heart failure patients should have access to their own records.”

Integration will start with patients affected by two chronic diseases, according to Tamara Shewciw, manager, IT, GHC.

“We’re starting with several hundred patients to get it going and work out all the bugs,” said Shewciw. “We are doing it for congestive heart and vascular intervention — eventually we would like to just open it up to a service patients can have”

From an IT perspective there are challenges, but we are “excited” to provide better clinical services for patients, she said.

“There are a lot of challenges, with security, confidentiality and privacy which is foremost but there are challenges we all want to look at, work through and overcome.”

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