For Halton Healthcare, digital transformation is not just one and done. Halton’s smart hospital serves patients in Oakville, a 330,000 square foot expansion in Milton, and a completely renovated Emergency and Diagnostic Imaging department in Georgetown. Halton Healthcare achieved the Ingenious award in 2018 and has earned this year’s Large Public Sector award.

It’s an impressive feat, but it doesn’t mean the process is over, says the healthcare centre’s chief information officer, Sandy Sagar. Halton Healthcare is rooted in smart technology to make a “frictionless” healthcare experience, and is now laser-focused on modernizing electronic medical records system and advanced clinical functionality, he says.

“We really knew and understood that in these ever-changing times, it was going to be a digital transformation that was going to happen often, but it also has to be meaningful,” Sagar told IT World Canada.

Some of Halton’s advanced digital transformation includes automation that assists with patient care in the lab department with lab tests or diagnostic imaging. The pharmacy departments even have robotic pill pickers. The automation that has been put in place is a key factor in providing safer and better care for patients, says Sagar. “We can make sure that we are giving the right drugs to the right patients at the right time and sending those drugs up to the clinical areas.”

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Physicians also need to be mobile, which is why Halton introduced a single sign-on and persistent computing solution. On a typical day, a physician will sign into 15 to 20 computers, while working across four or five different applications. The new single-sign-on solution allows physicians to be more mobile and look after their patients in different areas, says Dr. Allen Lee, Halton’s medical chief information officer.

These automation devices are part of the already installed 700 phones and 15,000 devices, which have decreased hospital costs of $600,000 per year, according to Halton Healthcare.

“This helps to reduce the alert fatigue for nurses,” he said. “But it still helps keep our patients safe.”

With three smart hospitals, the challenges span across hardware to training; however, standardizing the technology has proven successful. “It is easy to deviate from standardizing some of the technologies. And so we’ve made that a meaningful strategic priority for us,” Sager said. Although managing the specific needs of different departments at Halton Healthcare remains a priority, standardizing hospital systems is creating a more efficient environment, he says.

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For clinicians, for example, evolving multifunctional mobile devices help improve efficiency. “Whether I’m doing a lab test or whether I’m administering a medication, how can I make sure it’s one mobile device and it really serves all my needs,” Sagar said.  Instant and secure messaging for faster and easier communication has also become the norm across the organization.

Mobile devices give nurses instant access to information and alerts, allowing them to stay connected to patients in real-time. Nurses can also receive a physiological warning and these can be tailored to each specific patient, says Lee. Additional automation running underneath the hood further helps clinicians save time and prioritize patients by ditching the need to worry about multiple usernames and passwords. “It allows us to keep thinking about the patient, keep our focus on the clinical question rather than asking ‘how do I log into this application? What was my username? What’s my password?’” he explained.

The traditional data centre still plays a key role in Halton’s data strategy. Recently, 400 Halton servers were moved to a new data centre. But one of their current cloud digital transformation projects, according to Lee, is leveraging public cloud technology for secure and instant messaging for more frontline care teams.

Becoming a chief medical information officer was in itself a transformation, he added. No longer strictly curing patients, this new role involves solving problems with technological systems and requires bit of a learning curve. But, at Halton Healthcare, having a physician as a chief medical officer engaged in the digital transformation is a unique situation. Teamwork and collaboration keep ideas persistent for a better healthcare system, he says.

CIO Sagar says the hospital’s biggest success has been leveraging “the culture and teamwork” for digital transformation. “It gives us and the organization confidence that we can continue to succeed at digital transformation,” he said.

Following the mantra that digital transformation is not just one and done, future priorities for Halton Healthcare revolve around patients wanting to access their information with a patient portal.

Lee said, “we’re planning to get there, but we are not there yet. So it’s always about a timed plan and the next best thing.”

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