VON Canada

The Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada (VON) has kicked off a pilot project which it says could be the first step in getting an electronic health record system into its organization.

As part of the pilot, 500 front-line nurses have been issued BlackBerry smart phones to use in their daily client care routines. The project, which runs until March, is limited to VON Canada offices in Halifax, Cape Breton and Lunenberg, N.S., with a second wave expected to be rolled out in Ontario sometime over the next six to 12 weeks.

The clinical mobility initiative is part of a two-year, $10-million agreement VON Canada signed with IBM Canada last year. After the four-month pilot, VON Canada will evaluate the success of the project and decide whether to keep rolling out mobile technologies to the thousands of nurses it employs across the country.

Using the devices, nurses will be able to use the organization’s MedShare for BlackBerry software. The app gives them the ability to file electronic notes at a site and connect with other nurses and physicians in real-time, and gives them access to patient schedules, driving directions and other visit information.

“It helps the nursing staff be more connected and less isolated in their practice,” said Sharon Goodwin, a chief practice executive and the lead of VON Canada’s clinical mobility project. In the past, she said, nurses would receive a list of their upcoming clients via fax.

In addition to speeding up communications, Goodwin said, a successful pilot will be an important step toward better data gathering and an integrated electronic health record system. In the near future, she said, nurses will be able to chart trends in their patient’s care and better track outcomes.

“We’d eventually like to see field nurses be able to do all of their client record keeping through the device,” Goodwin added.

Gio Vatieri, lead of IBM Canada’s health care consulting practice, said that while the non-profit health firm’s ultimate goal to roll out an integrated information exchange system that staff can connect to is still in its early stages, VON Canada is far ahead of many other local health providers, such as family physicians.

“We’ve found doctors are large consumers of iPhones and a whole bunch of other technologies, but they’re not using them in their office practice,” he said.

If VON Canada is satisfied with the initial Nova Scotia and Ontario smart phone deployments, he said, he expects other end-user devices such as tablets will begin to filter in to their environment.

In addition to the BlackBerry rollout, IBM Canada is also helping the health care firm implement application management of back-office functions, new hardware, portal software, and other services to support the new wireless handheld devices.