Putting a Band-Aid on e-health

When it comes to moving towards electronic innovation, Ontario’s health care sector is lagging, according to the chief executive officer for the province’s Smart Systems for Health.

“Everything in the health care sector is poorly automated,” Mike Connolly told delegates recently at Showcase Ontario – the provincial government’s annual I&IT event. “It is the most poorly automated sector there is.

“If you go to a doctor’s office today, or you go to a hospital, it may look automated. There may be a computer on their desks, but that computer is being used for things like patient scheduling and billing OHIP. It’s not being used to look at your personal health record.”

Connolly said the province has realized there is a need to automate the health sector. The first group to undergo the automation process will be those involved in health care service delivery. This includes independent doctor’s offices and hospitals.

“We need to do that [because] 80 per cent of the health information for an individual is in their doctor’s office in paper files. The majority of the other 20 per cent if in the hospitals’ paper files.”

Connolly said that by November there will be a “fairly large announcement” regarding a physician’s portal that will offer 17 sets of free services. In addition, there will be a clinical management system that will allow doctors to move from a paper-based practice to an automated practice “at a reasonable price.”

One of the reasons the health care sector has been so slow to jump on the automation bandwagon is that no one in the health community has made a major step towards electronic records. Connolly said doctors haven’t made use of technology because labs, pharmacies and hospitals haven’t either. If a doctor did choose to utilize technology then they were just automating “their own little world.”

However, with the province’s new vision towards technology in health, Connolly is confident that things will change.

“We’ve got a great strategy in Ontario,” he said.