Longtime health care IT executive Sarah Kramer, no stranger to large and complex challenges, now faces the biggest challenge of her career as she assumes the post of president and CEO of eHealth Ontario, an agency created recently to harness information and technology to improve patient care in Ontario.
Kramer has served as vice-president and CIO with Cancer Care Ontario, and her work as lead for the initiative to reduce patient wait times in Ontario was the subject of a CIO Canada cover story in March 2007.
“There is no shortage of eHealth talent in this province. What we have lacked up until now is a province-wide eHealth strategy to implement and a single organization focused on executing that strategy,” said Kramer in a speech given at the annual Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) conference, soon after she assumed her new post.
The key priorities of eHealth Ontario include: creating a diabetes registry that will ensure people are receiving the best possible care; establishing an e-prescribing system to eliminate hand-written prescriptions and reduce medication errors; and developing an e-health portal which will allow healthcare providers and patients to easily and securely access the health information they need to deliver and receive better care.
The agency will also oversee the development of a province-wide electronic health record system by 2015 that will be used to improve health care delivery, increase patient safety, reduce emergency room wait times and ultimately create a more effective health care system.
eHealth Ontario will work with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario (IPC) to ensure the protection of personal health information.
Kramer recently spoke with Premier Dalton McGuinty about the government’s new strategy for eHealth in Ontario. “We spoke about the transparency the strategy will introduce into our health care system, and how this will transform health care from the patients’ perspective in three ways,” she said.
“First, it will allow patients to better manage their own health care, giving them the flexibility and the tools to make health care choices that best suit their individual circumstances. Second, it will help improve patient safety by removing steps where manual errors often occur, such as in the writing of paper prescriptions. And third, it will bring health care into the post-industrial age where both patients and providers are able to navigate health services more easily and efficiently.”
She added that a new level of transparency to build trust between all the groups pursuing eHealth initiatives across the province will be needed. One of the earliest efforts in this regard will be to establish clear indicators that reflect the agency’s strategic objectives. These indicators will measure clinical impact, clinical engagement, and patient engagement.