Thursday, November 05, 2009


Healthcare is the world’s most information intensive industry. Every day this industry produces massive volumes of data that, if properly used, can improve clinical practice and outcomes, guide planning and resource allocation, and enhance accountability. Electronic health information is fundamental to better health care. There will be no quantum leap forward in health care quality and efficiency without high quality, user-friendly health information compiled and delivered electronically.

The task of building an information network that patients, providers, managers, and policy-makers can use to improve decision-making at all levels is truly daunting (and the health information “agenda” competes with innumerable other claims on resources.)

That said, Canada’s Healthcare Informatics arena is rapidly changing, primarily due to growing public and private investment in Electronic Health Information Systems (EHIS). At the same time, a recent economic study (November 2009) identifies a serious need for increased labor and skills amongst Canadian Health Information (HI) and Health Information Management (HIM) professionals over the next five years. To compound further, there are fears in both the private and public sector that the successful implementation of EHIS systems is potentially jeopardized due to lack of qualified human resources. Add to this - - issues around Canada Health Infoway Funding, a limited and flawed EHR blueprint, Federal and Provincial politics, lobbying, posturing, competition, and (yes) corruption - - and it’s easy to see how a feast or famine (all or nothing) environment has been established.

From a consumer standpoint in Canada, advancing patient care has also unfortunately been tied directly to those vendors that have the bandwidth to extend a provincial or national solution (even if those platforms are antiquated and in many cases not standardized). This discussion (and subsequent funding) is entirely based on resources, and while absolutely a relevant conversation - - in practice - - has only left Canadian’s with a sub-par platform and an increased tax-burden.

So, while increasing evidence (and PR buzz) attempts to illuminate progress in extending a Canada-wide EHIS - - it’s really only proven to be lip service. As political pressures mount, huge contracts are extended to vendors who are in many cases no more equipped to deliver an integrated EHIS than a local start-up.

The best example one might extend related to the state-of-the-union of Canadian EHIS is from the “Wizard of Oz”.  One might think that it’s only a matter of time before Canadian citizens get wise to the kick-back’s, cost over-run’s, deception, and general systemic corruption in Canadian EHIS. Let’s not even get started on the role of “Consultants” in all of this. The unfortunate challenge is that, unless one is deeply entrenched in this sector for a number of years - - most investigations are only typically scratching the surface.

Neither the Canadian Government nor any of its elected bodies have yet to even get close to the real issues (and savvy multi-national vendors are well aware of this and capitalizing on it.) When Canadians finally pull back the metaphorical ‘curtain’ to see the ‘Wizard’ pulling furiously on ropes and levers - - to attempt to evidence progress - - they’re going to wonder whose hand was on the wheel?  Just take a look at the long, detailed (and growing) list of Federal and Provincial resources (i.e. dollars) allocated to accomplishing specific EHIS tasks that are never completed or even accounted for.

To be continued...

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