Five hospitals appoint one CIO

Lewis Hooper faces a challenge no other chief information officer in Ontario ever has — namely, to streamline technologies across several Toronto-area hospitals.

“Traditionally it has been difficult to share information [in health care]. This position was created to break down those barriers. What I would like to do is set up a health care information system where the information follows the patient wherever they go in the area,” said Hooper, who is now overseeing the information systems for several Toronto-region hospitals — Scarborough Hospital, Durham Access to Care, Lakeridge Health, Rouge Valley Health System, and Scarborough Community Care Access Centre.

Prior to his appointment, each individual site had its own IT director but no CIO. But this past September, Ontario’s Minister of Health George Smitherman encouraged hospitals to balance their budgets and pool their resources to improve efficiency. For the five sites, the appointment of one CIO was the first step in accomplishing that, and it was something they were considering doing back in June.

Hooper says he was chosen because of his past experience in assisting hospitals incorporate their information systems into one. His experience includes helping the Durham region incorporate one information system in five hospitals, as well as serving on a number of province-wide initiatives such as the Health Services Restructuring Commission. Besides helping the five sites better share information, Hooper will also help them to also avoid redundant information gathering, such as a patient’s medical history or personal details.

On the technical side, Hooper said he wants to put a single database in place using a Web portal system to connect all the hospitals’ existing databases. This would allow doctors access to a patient’s information regardless of where if it’s entered, for example.

“It would [also be] wonderful if we could get all the practitioners, all the family doctors, and specialists tied in too. They would have easy access to the information we generate around the patient in the hospital and be able to feed in the work that they do to the information in the hospitals.”

Since stepping into his new job, Hooper has discovered a number of issues he’d like to resolve. One such issue is to have each site share a common disaster recovery plan, as the current one is not effective. As well, Hooper hopes to develop a shared telecommunication system.

“In health care we spend far too little dollars on IT, most of the time we spend one to two per cent where we should be spending four per cent. In my role I can identify pockets of expertise and apply them to the deficits in each of the sites and make a system that works more efficiently and effectively,” he said.

Another benefit of Hooper’s role is that it allows for a consistent approach to things and avoids the “silo” approach (a lack of integration between the business end and patient care in hospitals) to health care.

In the end, he hopes better patient care would be the end result of his appointment.

“From a patient’s perspective it is one health care system. Moving from one [hospital] to another ought to be fairly easy.”

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