Manitoba off and running with e-health

The Government of Manitoba has officially launched the first phase of its new e-health record system at seven health centres and hospitals across the province.

The initial rollout of the eChart Manitoba system gives doctors the ability to view demographic, immunization and drug information. It also gives physicians access to select lab results.

Over the next 18 months, up to 30 sites will be phased into the project with a second phase of eChart expected to go live before the end of 2011. With that update, doctors will be able to get access to diagnostic imaging reports, allergy information and more lab data sources will be added.

The second phase will also allow doctors already running approved e-health software to integrate with eChart.

“We took a controlled approach to implementing this solution,” said Liz Loewen, director of coordination of care at Manitoba eHealth. “We wanted to deploy in stages and see the impacts on work flow.”

The $22.5-million project started back in 2009 after the Government of Manitoba teamed up with IBM Corp. to implement a packaged EHR software suite from dbMotion Ltd.

Giovanni Vatieri, a partner and an IBM health practice leader, said that even though Manitoba was one of the last provinces out of the gate on EHR, it’s now leading many other provinces because of its slow and staggered rollout.

“We dealt with the high volume stuff in phase one,” he said.

Vatieri said that records in phase one cover data that physicians typically need at every visit. Going forward during phases two to four, eHealth Manitoba will “scrap away at the information” that is found in 5 to 20 per cent of records, he added.
Michael Martineau, an e-health consultant who also operates the eHealth Musings blog, agreed with the approach taken by the province, saying that all good projects “boil down into steps.”

He said that even though the system is currently read-only, which does not give health providers the ability to add information to the portal, Manitoba is bringing real value to its citizens and health professionals and making the system useful right from the start.

The project, he said, also validates the idea of implementing a packaged EHR solution as opposed to trying to build one up from scratch.

“Clinical practices are very similar across the world,” he said, adding it is wise to make an investment in a portal that has been tested for usability

“You don’t have to figure out the best way to put things on the screen or lay it out for your users,” Martineau added.

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