A new clinical management system (CMS) will be available to Ontario physicians who don’t want to invest in IT infrastructure, preferring to utilize third party technical expertise.

The system is an application service provider (ASP) offering that will be delivered by Toronto-based systems’ integrator xwave, and U.K.-based health technology provider, GE Healthcare.

The two companies announced late last week that they have signed a 15-year contract with Ontario’s Smart Systems for Health Agency (SSHA) and OMA e-Services Inc. (OntarioMD) to provide Ontario physicians with what they say will be an “affordable” CMS.

OntarioMD is an online portal that provides the province’s physicians with free access to health information and services, including a drug database, medical journals, and breaking news and alerts. The portal is hosted by SSHA, an Ontario Ministry of Health agency whose mandate is to electronically connect health care providers to one another and the information they need to improve patient care.

“I don’t look at it as a technology contract, it’s a services contract,” said Gary Folker, managing director of xwave, that is providing the hosted CMS offering. “I think there is a recognition that – as time goes on – technologies change.”

Folker said the length of the contract is aligned with a continuum of care philosophy, focused on how all patient information can be utilized over a period of time.

A release by the two companies said the new ASP-based system is in line with the mandate of Ontario’s Physician IT Program – which is to support the transformation of the primary health care sector by promoting the adoption of high quality, integrated information technology.

“One would think (affordability) would increase physician adoption rates but there is no way of speculating on that at this point in time,” Folker said. “Initial feedback from the marketplace indicates this is a very welcome opportunity.”

GE Healthcare’s Centricity Physician Office software forms the core of xwave’s ASP offering, which has been developed for the Canadian market to offer physicians full electronic medical record (EMR) and practice management functionality.

“I believe this is a tremendous opportunity to collect a lot of patient information at the primary care level,” Folker said. “Utilization of that information as you move forward in the continuum of care will play a significant role in the development of an EMR through a period of time.” Folker believes much needs to be done to evolve the total data repository for the patient to include other pieces of information pertinent to patient care.

Centricity Physician Office was designed around the workflow of a doctor’s office, according to Laurie Rogers, general manager, GE Healthcare, Healthcare IT, Canada.

According to Folker, by opting for a subscription model rather than deploying specific technologies inhouse, physicians are relieved of a great deal of IT responsibility – and this allows them to focus on [their] core competencies. They can concentrate on patient flow and workflow without worrying about technology infrastructure; it’s all done within the ASP model from a central location, he said.

One analyst notes that so far three provinces – Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia – have adopted such a program, but with some variations.

“In Ontario the doctor has two choices,” said Michael Martineau, director of Ottawa-based analyst firm Branham Group Inc. “They can go [with] an ASP model if they want to work with the provincially–blessed vendor, or they can choose somebody else.”

Martineau said while the government preferred vendor has the inside track as their application is hosted inside of government, creating a cost advantage, doctors can opt to go with someone else.

Likewise, he said if physicians want the CMS system deployed in their office there are also several government-vetted and approved vendors they can select from.

But he said nothing prevents a physician from selecting another vendor.

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