Province Invests in Electronic Tools to Improve Patient Care: Oswald

(Winnipeg, MB) - Manitoba is launching innovative electronic tools that make the health-care system work better for patients and health-care providers, Health Minister Theresa Oswald announced today.

"Putting better technology in the hands of our health-care providers gives them another way to help patients faster and more effectively," said Oswald. "The entire health-care system benefits when we find new solutions and opportunities to improve patient care."

The province has received $1 million from Canada Health Infoway to create eReferral, a tool to help primary-care providers refer their patients to an appropriate specialist and share necessary information through the patient's electronic medical records. This project is the next step in Manitoba's successful Bridging General and Specialist Care referral program, which continues to be available to primary-care providers who are not yet using electronic medical records, said Oswald.

The new eReferral program will help ensure patients are referred to the right specialist the first time, all of the necessary patient information and diagnostic work will be completed when needed andevery step in the patient's referral is captured in his or her electronic medical record, the minister said, adding the program will be rolled out over the next two years, reaching over 1,000 family doctors, specialists and nurse practitioners who use electronic medical records.

"Patients often require multiple encounters with a variety of caregivers and diagnostic settings before seeing a specialist," said Richard Alvarez, president and CEO, Canada Health Infoway. "Each visit produces pieces of information that the specialist needs. This is about leveraging electronic health record systems' ability to track these multiple encounters, along with the vital patient information they produce."

In partnership with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WHRA), the province is also introducing eBooking for elective surgeries. A new electronic booking form will replace scheduling appointments on paper to provide a more transparent, streamlined way for specialists and staff to track patients' progress from requesting an appointment to surgery, said Oswald. To date, eBooking has been implemented in seven acute care facilities, the offices of 179 surgeons practising in 12 different specialties and in nearly all Women's Health Program offices. Almost 300 staff members have been trained to use eBooking, she added.

"The new eBooking system will benefit patients and doctors as it replaces the paper-based system being used now," said Dr. Brock Wright, senior vice-president and chief medical officer, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. "It will provide a more transparent, streamlined way for specialists and staff to track patients' progress from requesting an appointment to getting a date for a surgical procedure."

Other regional health authorities continue to access another electronic system called the Patient Access Registry Tool that captures information on patients waiting for specialist consultations and elective surgery. This existing system provides some of the wait-time information currently available to the public and more detailed information to the specialists and regional health authorities responsible for managing patient care. EBooking is integrated with this tool in the WRHA to ensure that consistent, accurate information is available to specialists, Oswald said.

In March 2011, the province launched eChart Manitoba, a $40-million electronic health-record program. This tool allows authorized health-care providers to view key information about a patient such as dispensed medications, immunization and laboratory test results to make better care decisions and support patient safety, she added.

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 information and communications technology 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.

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For more information:

Karen Schmidt
Director, Corporate/Internal Communications
Canada Health Infoway
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