e-Health no longer a dispensable expenditure says Smitherman

The Ontario government will champion the use of interactive, Web-based information technology to make healthcare services more pervasive and accessible.

These technologies will be an integral part of the soon-to-be-launched Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), according to George Smitherman, provincial minister of health and long-term care.

Speaking in Toronto recently, Smitherman said LHINs – scheduled to be launched on October 6 – will create an integrated health system that’s connects with, informs and listens to Ontario citizens.

LHINs are a “made-in-Ontario solution” that enable resources to be much better matched to patients’ health care needs than they are today, Smitherman said.

These networks, he said, would encourage the spread of “best practices” – including IT best practices – across the entire system.

The minister rued that the “unifying” potential of healthcare IT has not yet been harnessed.

He likened the current condition of healthcare IT to a patchwork quilt. “The plain fact is the way health technology has been implemented to date has largely had the effect of reinforcing silos.”

The current lack of a common technology platform seriously compromises patient care, he said. “How many times does a patient or his or her caregiver repeat the same information to different providers, at different times? We’ve all experienced this. It’s an enormous waste of time and talent, as information is recorded, processed and filed over and over again.”

He said with LHINs and a common technology platform, this fragmentation and duplication of effort would be a thing of the past. “Also, gone are the days where e-health (is) treated as a dispensable expenditure.” In the coming year, he said, new, integrating technologies would be put in place that transform healthcare delivery and allow millions of Ontarians to reap the rewards.

Smitherman cited examples of recently launched technology initiatives that are already transforming patient care and physician effectiveness. These include the ePhysician project that offers all Ontario primary care physicians access to systems that help them manage their patients better. The initiative includes a Physician IT funding program, a physician portal and clinical management systems that offer computer-aided decision making capabilities to healthcare practitioners.

In Ontario, physicians can potentially receive government funding for CMS applications as part of the ePP.

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