Monday, April 21, 2008

Empowering consumers with their health records: Canada to take a close look at PHR’s

TORONTO, April 17 /CNW/ - As the Internet has enabled consumers to manage important aspects of their personal lives from the relative comfort of their home, it is no surprise that Canadians are becoming increasingly intrigued by the prospect of being able to view and manage their health information using emerging personal health records (PHR) technologies.

Recent announcements by major players in the IT industry suggest such capabilities are just around the corner. Recognizing developments in this area are moving quickly, Canada's federal, provincial and territorial health ministries have expressed support for Canada Health Infoway's (Infoway) plan to discuss personal health record solutions with interested vendors and to explore how these technologies could be made available to Canadians in a secure manner.

"Providing Canadians and their health care providers with appropriate and secure access to their health information has been our goal from the onset," said Richard Alvarez, President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway, the federally-funded, independent, not-for-profit organization that is leading the adoption of electronic health records across Canada. "The prospect of seeing consumer health solutions in the Canadian marketplace is an exciting development indeed. It is also critical that we ensure these offerings provide the appropriate level of trust, protecting the privacy and security of Canadians' health information."

"The Government of Canada, through its funding of Infoway, is investing in the national transition from paper to electronic health records," said the Honourable Tony Clement, Federal Minister of Health. "I am pleased that personal health record solutions will complement and leverage our investments to date in e-health solutions. With the appropriate ground work in place, PHR's will ultimately deliver greater value to Canadian patients."

"Canadians are taking increasingly active roles in managing their chronic diseases and preventing illness from setting in," said Chris d'Entremont, Minister of Health for Nova Scotia, who serves as the liaison minister between Infoway and federal, provincial and territorial health ministers. "Our investments in the implementation of electronic health records are crucial to our goal of ensuring Canadians have access to the information and tools they need to manage their care. The onset of personal health record solutions can accelerate our desire to enable patients to have these capabilities."

A number of technology vendors have expressed interest in creating solutions that will equip Canadians with the technology they need to view their medical data. Working with Infoway and its partners will help ensure the solutions available to Canadians will leverage the progress made in implementing electronic health record projects across Canada. Using technology solutions that are compatible with Infoway's blueprint will ensure patient privacy and security provisions are adhered to. Infoway has funded 249 electronic health record projects across Canada to date. These secure systems are leading the pan-Canadian switch from inefficient paper-based storage of medical data such as lab test results,prescription history and allergy information to electronic systems that are far more efficient, save money, and save lives.

Canada Health Infoway is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the Federal government. Infoway jointly invests with every province and territory to accelerate the development and adoption of electronic health record projects in Canada. Fully respecting patient confidentiality, these secure systems will provide clinicians and patients with the information they need to better support safe care decisions and manage their own health. Accessing this vital information quickly will help foster a more modern and sustainable health care system for all Canadians.

For further information: Dan Strasbourg, Director, Corporate
Communications, Canada Health Infoway,, (416)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lessons from our neighbor to the north

The U.S. is facing a crisis with the quality, disparity and cost of our health care services. We operate a fragmented health care delivery system marked by silos of data.

Creating a cohesive health care system is exactly what we need in order to deliver high-quality, cost-effective, and timely patient care. Luckily, we have a model to follow directly to our north in Canada.

Canada’s 14 federal, provincial and territorial deputy ministers of health - as well as regional health care authorities, other health care organizations and its information technology vendors and suppliers – are working together toward a common goal: to provide 50 percent of Canadians access to a secure electronic health record by 2010.

How does a country with more than 33 million people come to an agreement and move forward with a country-wide health care IT system? Easy – in Canada, the health care IT infrastructure functions like a business unit. To move forward with EHR adoption, this group did research, made a decision, secured funding, and began implementation.

In the U.S. we don’t make decisions nearly this quickly. We’ve been churning over patient identification, for example, for more than a decade. Churn costs money; churn costs development time and effectiveness; ultimately, churn costs lives. Let’s take a lesson from our northern neighbors and get the job done.

Spearheading Canada’s initiative is Canada Health Infoway, Inc., an independent not-for-profit organization that invests with public partners across Canada to implement and reuse compatible health information systems.

One of the first steps in mounting this nationwide project – and one of the most pivotal aspects of its success – was to create a common blueprint, or electronic health record “infostructure.”

This blueprint includes:

-- Client registry systems, similar to enterprise master person indexes and record locator services that support health information exchanges in U.S. domain repositories.

-- A longitudinal record service, to coordinate data across multiple domains and registries

-- Standardized services and communications to ensure privacy, security and interoperability

-- Standardized information and message structures to support inter-infostructure information exchange

In this model, each infostructure interoperates with others in a peer-to-peer manner through the Health Information Access Layer (HIAL), where the data-sharing journey begins and ends.

Let’s learn from Canada’s success and follow a business-model approach.

First, of course, let’s have a blueprint. Second, let’s invest wisely and strategically – and measure results to monitor that investment. The Canadian government invested $1.6 billion in its initiative. The government entities knew they needed to see value from their investment, so they funded a small number of targeted areas rather than spreading their investment across a range of initiatives.

The Canadian government also demands results. Each year, Infoway is accountable for reporting status and success metrics. Again, this mirrors the way a business unit would operate.

Third, no churning. Period. Let’s make decisions and start to move.

Ron G. Parker, Infoway’s director of architecture, added this advice: “It is important to invest in a structured collaboration model that ensures all key stakeholder communities are represented in the process of standardization.”

Standardizing business processes in any industry requires a three-level “sell," he says: to the executive decision makers, to the people with industry domain expertise, and to the people that build the business processes. “Only if everybody in this ‘stack’ knows the other groups are good-to-go, can you have success,” he says.

I love Canada. I just don’t want to move there. In fact, I’d like to retire in Montana. My hope is that we’ve got a nationwide health care IT system in place by that time. Needless to say, the clock is ticking. Can’t we follow someone else’s lead?

Original Article By Lorraine Fernandes. Fernandes is a vice president and health care industry ambassador for Initiate Systems, Inc.