Sunnybrook digitizes patient records

Toronto-based Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is in the final stage of a long-term strategy to digitize patient records, having just begun to implement an enterprise content management (ECM) system.


What remains of Sunnybrook’s e-records plan, started in 1999, is to deal with the paper documents and narrative notes that must still be accessed manually, said Sunnybrook’s chief information officer, Sam Marafioti.


For the 6,000 users – physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists and support – dispersed across two campuses, Marafioti said it will mean “anytime, anywhere access by multiple users, versus once-only access to the paper chart.”


Retreiving paper documents would normally take 48 hours. “That process is now totally eliminated,” said Marafioti. “And the beauty of this is it will be available through virtual private networking.”


Sunnybrook is using CGI Group Inc.’s Sovera software for automating medical records workflow, including medical coding, chart review, analysis and completion, and records release. It’s a multi-year $2.2-million deal.


Sunnybrook plans to start the new process of electronics records retrieval with the Women & Babies unit, before progressing to the remaining units. Marafioti estimates this final stage will be complete in the fall of 2010.


Steve Bock, Atlanta-based director of the health-care solutions practice at CGI Group, said giving medical practitioners access to patient medical records online helps resolve many of the challenges typically seen in a health-care setting. “Hospitals are always looking for ways of reducing costs, improving productivity, and improving the level of care they can provide to their patients,” said Bock.


The patient record access isn’t confined within the walls of the hospital. Bock said health-care customers have extended access to community-based physicians as well.


Bock foresees the need for document management tools continuing in health care, just as it is in the finance and insurance sectors, for handling structured and unstructured content, from laboratories to inpatient units. “Everyone is looking how to integrate and get that comprehensive view of the patient,” said Bock.


Marafioti said that with any technology deployment, the challenges are typically tied to how much of an investment is put towards training and implementation support. For that reason, Sunnybrook isn’t rushing this final project, in order to ensure staff get good training and user interface, and adequate implementation support, said Marafioti.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau 

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