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Saskatchewan's electronic health record initiative on track

Capturing lab results in a provincial database and moving forward on adoption of electronic medical record systems are the latest phases of Saskatchewan's (SK) drive toward a provincial electronic health record (EHR) system. The province has already implemented several of the EHR's core elements including the client and provider registries, the drug information system and the Diagnostic Imaging/Picture Archiving Communications System (DI-PACS).

Neil Gardner, strategic advisor to the Board Chair for eHealth Saskatchewan and a member of Canada's delegation to the International Organization for Standardization, said his province's implementation of the DI-PACS has had great success. "Our PACS is operating in 100 per cent of regional hospitals, 60 per cent of provincial hospitals and 56 per cent of district hospitals," he said. "This provides secure and immediate access to 124 million stored digital studies for use by authorized health care providers across the province."

Gardner said this kind of progress on the EHR front is bringing benefits to patients and health care providers. Patient safety is one of the biggest benefits, particularly with regard to drug information. With the right medications matched to the right patients, adverse drug reactions and complications are reduced, he said. For physicians, having the correct patient information and lab test results allows them to be more productive and provide a better level of care.

The province's approach to EHR implementation is built around the ideas of supporting continuity of care and the flow of information among health care providers to provide better, more efficient and higher quality care for patients, Gardner said.

That's where standards come into play. "It is important to work with care providers in terms of recording information in consistent ways so that it can be shared," he said. "Then we have what we call semantic interoperability. In other words, as we connect points of care, the care providers have the same understanding of the information so that they can readily interpret and use that information in caring for their patients."

Gardner talks about the next steps for Saskatchewan, which include completing the lab database, continuing to move ahead on EMR adoption and rolling out the DI-PACS to all regions of the province.

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