SSHA responds to EHR criticism

Smart Systems for Health Agency (SSHA) has hit back at criticism from Ontario’s Information Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian on the progress made so far in the development of an Ontario-wide EHR. SSHA’s CEO Bill Albino addressed the issue in an interview with

“I’m not sure I agree with the general conclusion,” said Albino in response to the critique from Cavoukian that Ontario does not rank in the top five provinces with respect to EHR implementation (as per a Canada Health Infoway study).

“It comes back to the fact that I think they focus on the percentage of physicians or primary care providers who have EMR or EHR in their practices,” said Albino.

Canada Health Infoway declined to be interviewed on the matter by, and their spokesperson Dan Strasbourg wrote in an e-mail response that, “As a matter of practice, we don’t publicly get into the progress of our partners.”

Albino did note that in Ontario, the physician adoption rate probably does lag the averages across the provinces.

“But I think in terms of a provincial health record, which will be the aggregated and organized information about an Ontario-based patient from many sources, including hospital systems, lab reports and PACS…I think Ontario is doing well.”

He conceded that at the provincial level, Ontario may be behind a few provinces, “But I think one of the things that we have in Ontario which is frankly pretty unique, is the SSHA central network,” he said. “So we have a high-performance network in the province from corner to corner, which most provinces would envy, it’s not fully deployed but it’s probably 70 per cent deployed.”

He added that SSHA is building the Ontario lab system set to go live late this year, as well as the PACS digital imaging systems that are being rolled out regionally and will be hosted by SSHA. In addition, the drug profile viewer enables people to look at the drug profile use of people who are on the Ontario drug benefit program, which is about 20 per cent of Ontarians, said Albino. “But pretty soon there’ll be some attempts to bring together a drug profile use from everybody in Ontario.”

“The EMR is going to be virtual so it’ll pull together for viewing purposes data from all of those systems in real time. So the fact that we have one place to operate them over one local high performance, high availability framework is very unique to Ontario. They don’t have that in very many other provinces.”

As for a specific date as to when the province-wide EMR will be up and running, Albino said that there are some “committed timelines” that will be published shortly around pieces.

“We’re going live with pieces, bit by bit, and the pieces are distinct, with the big pieces being: lab information database, diagnostic images, drug use profile,” he explained. “Those are the three things every physician wants to know when they’re looking at a patient.”

He added that’s underway in Ontario, and integration of that data with all the hospital repositories is also in the works.

“When you talk about the development of a provincial EHR we are not lagging. I think we may be ahead in some things, behind in others, but if you look at the entire spectrum of what it takes to put that together, we’re not lagging, I think we’re keeping pace.”

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