Three years into his job as the steward of Ontario’s electronic health records program, the head of eHealth Ontario said the organization has learned three valuable lessons about technology deployment that will help it deliver on a promise to have the health records of every Ontarian in digital form by 2015.
Top among these lessons, according to CEO Greg Reed, is accepting that the organization can’t go it alone.
Greg Reed, CEO of eHealth Ontario
“We realized we had to determine which jobs were better done by the government and which one were best suited for the private sector,” Reed said during a talk with members of the Toronto Region Board of Trade today.
Reed became chief of eHealth Ontario after its former CEO Sarah Kramer left office in 2009 amid reports of lavish over spending and a scandal over untendered contracts worth $4.8 million. Apart from the earlier spending scandal, eHealth Ontario was seen by critics as foundering on its mandate and considered a laggard in the electronic health record field among Canadian provinces.
In September last year, a $46.2 million contract won by CGI Information Systems and Management Consultants Inc.to build an electronic diabetes registry for eHealth Ontario was cancelled over delays. It was reported in the media that registry has become obsolete.
“Hospitals that are part of our network are building their own chronic diseases registry, which includes diseases like diabetes, that are using the latest technology and they are very effective,” Reed said.
Today, he said, 70 per cent of Ontarians, or 9 million out of a population of nearly 13 million, have some form of electronic medical record. About 90 per cent of exam results such as x-rays, mammogram and CT-scan results are in digital form and can be transmitted via the Internet.
Video: Exclusive Q&A with Jim McCarter
eHealth Ontario: the whole story
“About 100 hospital emergency rooms are also connected to neuro-surgeons and specialists who can receive these results and provide immediate recommendations to ER personnel so that they can act quicker,” Reed said.
The three lessons Reed learned are:
Don’t reinvent the wheel – Ontario’s 160 hospitals as well as a large number of clinics and health centres already have their own form of digital health record systems. “The problem is, these systems are isolated,” said Reed. “Our job is less about rebuilding a new system and more about connecting hospitals, physicians and clinicians.”