Trillium CIO pushes the power of sharing knowledge

Trillium CIO pushes the power of sharing knowledge

Being CIO of Trillium Health Centre, it’s hardly surprising Wayne Mills is a big supporter of e-health. But he wants the e to stand for enabling.

It’s not that Mills has anything against the increasingly important role of information technology in health care delivery. “Health care needs transformation, but we have to remember that technology provides tools that health organizations and patients need,” he explains.

IT is important “because it will make us more effective and give the system greater sustainability,” adds Mills, who is also vice-president of information systems at the west-end Toronto health centre.

Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are under constant pressure to keep up with the relentless advance in knowledge about diagnosing and treating diseases and conditions, Mills asserts.

“More information helps them do their jobs better, but we have to help them use their time effectively as the demands on the health care system grow.

“We need the ability to integrate all this information and to have it readily available,” he says. “We have to be able to manage all the data and feed the knowledge to our health care workers.”

Done right, e-health will give hospital workers the kind of information they need so they have the time to do what they are supposed to: help patients and their families, he says.

“It isn’t just a matter of getting more money; it’s how we use the technology to change our operations so we are more effective,” says Mills.

“IT by itself won’t solve the pressure on the health care system.”

Trillium has been working on integrating IT into health care for seven years. In 2005, it launched THINK (transforming health care into integrated networks of knowledge). “The goal was to change our way of working.”

The first steps were to integrate the systems within Trillium’s two hospitals to improve the kind of information about health records and patient medication. “It is important to how our staff works,” says Mills.

As much as possible, Trillium uses existing international and national standards in its systems. “They allow us to document all the actions we take so everyone understands what has been done.” It also enables patients to better understand their situation and decide the kind of care they want.

e-Health systems have to be accessible to patients, family, doctors, hospitals, clinics and community care support agencies. For example, up-to-date lab tests need to be posted in the system so everyone is fully aware of a patient’s status.

A key step in keeping up with the pace of change is for hospitals to cooperate, he states. “We shouldn’t be building hospital-centric solutions, but looking for ways to work with other hospitals and care providers. This will lead to higher-quality health care.

“We talk to other organizations all the time,” Mills says. “We share our info with the community support networks.”

He meets several times a month with other hospital CIOs and is in touch with hospitals in the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand on a regular basis.

“We want to know what other people are doing; we don’t want to be re-inventing everything.”

An example of hospital cooperation can be seen in the recently announced linking of hospitals in the Huron Perth Health Care Alliance in Southwestern Ontario to a state-of-the-art digital imaging network.

The three hospitals have joined nine other hospital organizations in Ontario that are connected to the network, which enables diagnostic images to be shared between primary, secondary and tertiary care institutions.

Andrew Williams, CEO of Huron Perth, says being linked to the imaging tool is important for patients and ensures health care professionals have access to the latest technology.

“It assists in the recruitment and retention of staff and physicians, and strengthens our ability to provide needed health care services locally.”

“This is one of the largest shared diagnostic imaging projects of its kind in Canada,” says Stella Skerlec of Canada Health Infoway. “It can serve as a model for other jurisdictions across the country.”

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist based in Ottawa. He can be reached at

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