Two Ontario hospitals make a CHOICE

Two Ontario hospitals were looking for a way to add more medical content to their Web sites, and found a company that could do that without any additional work for them.

Comprehensive Health Online Information Centre for the Enterprise (CHOICE) is a customized Web environment from Burlington, Mass.-based HealthGate Data Corp. that has been implemented by the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington, Ont. and the Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ont.

CHOICE gives the hospitals access to content “and various types of information in an environment that has the look and feel of the hospital’s own Web site,” according to Donald Reece, the CEO of HealthGate. “It really is a way for the hospital to have a very robust Web strategy, building their brand without having to worry that HealthGate is getting the brand recognition out of that site.”

The CHOICE platform provides different levels of content for customers to choose from: basic information on health conditions; more in-depth information and explanations for patients who might want to learn more about conditions and treatments; and difficult and complex information for doctors and physicians who want to do research or are just looking for information. The CHOICE customer is also able to set up users and passwords, so that access to the various levels of information is restricted.

The Credit Valley Hospital is using all three levels of content through its site because it wanted to provide its physicians and staff with access to more professional journals for research, and to provide its patients with useful information, according to Wendy Johnson, a spokesperson for the hospital.

It has set up access limits for information as well, so that only doctors have access to the Professional Series section of information. Doctors are also able to give patients passwords to get into the system to find out more about their conditions and cures, she explained.

“It’s not that they didn’t have access to this kind of information before,” Johnson said. “It’s that they didn’t have it all in one place.”

Don Scott is the president and CEO of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, which has been using the service for about a year. He admitted that the hospital has been a bit slow getting into computerization – e-mail was only set up last October, for example. But this service was one way to incorporate technology into the hospital environment.

“I think we wanted to offer it as a service to the community of Burlington and area so that they had access to such information as a benefit,” he said. “And also for our hospital and professional staff, they’ve got a ready source of information.”

Users going to a hospital’s Web site will have no idea the content they are looking at is not coming from the hospital’s servers, Reece said.

“They would actually go to the hospital’s servers, but the content that gets served onto the Web pages comes off of our severs,” he said. “It’s a seamless pulling of the content, so the user doesn’t know.”

CHOICE handles all of the maintenance and updating of the content and look within the template that the hospital has chosen.

In the case of Credit Valley, Johnson said HealthGate did most of the work.

“They offered us a variety of templates to choose from so we could determine the best look for the HealthGate pages, how we wanted the linkages to appear, how we wanted to be able to access that,” she said.

Depending on the state of the hospital’s existing Web site, Reece said it is possible to have CHOICE set up and running within a matter of days.

The only challenge Credit Valley’s Johnson said the hospital has run into is promoting the use of the platform. Some people are still not fully comfortable with the use of technology, she noted, so for some people there has been a learning curve.

A standard package from HealthGate is about US$55,000 a year, which is for basic professional-level content as well as education and consumer content. This price can go up or down, based on how much content the customer wants.