Alberta is one of the Canadian provinces enjoying the most success developing and implementing a single, province-wide Electronic Health Record (EHR). There are a great number of projects, processes and products that form part of Alberta's EHR and the Alberta Netcare EHR Portal has been developed to bring them all under the same umbrella.
"It's important to stress that having records online allows us to provide better patient care."
Dr. Robert Hauptman of the Saulbus Family Medical Clinic in St. Albert points to the availability of lab test results as an example of how the portal has improved patient care and patient safety.Since its launch in 2005, the Netcare Portal has become an invaluable tool for physicians in particular, but also for the pharmacists, nurses and other health service providers who make up the circle of care in Alberta. The portal makes patient information - from test results to prescription history to allergies to relevant demographic information - available immediately at the point of care.
Better patient care
"By being able to see the results of lab tests or imaging, there is no duplication of tests requested. Furthermore, if you have the best information possible you can make the best diagnostic and therapeutic decisions," says Dr. Hauptman. "In the past, you might order more tests which were unnecessary and caused the patient to wait two or three weeks for the results, when those tests might already have been done. It's important to stress that having records online allows us to provide better patient care."
Lisa Cookson, a registered nurse with the Claro Clinic in Drayton Valley, agrees. She says she's been amazed by how user-friendly the system has been. She marvels at how much simpler life in the clinic has become, because so many day-to-day tasks have been made easier.
"I even use Alberta Netcare to verify patients' health care numbers if they've forgotten to bring them. I can check to see if a new patient has a number, and if it is active."
Popular with health care providers
Thanks to funding from Canada Health Infoway, the Alberta Netcare EHR Portal was developed by Alberta Health and Wellness (AHW) in partnership with Alberta Health Services, and many other partners including the health professional colleges and associations. More than 34,000 physicians, pharmacists and other health service providers are registered users of the Netcare Portal and access the Electronic Health Record resources on an annual basis, and that number grows every day.
In addition to patient information, the portal also offers authorized health service providers support tools such as drug-to-drug and drug-to-allergy interaction alerts to avoid prescriptions that conflict, a database of all available drugs and their common dosages, and links to information support such as Clinical Guidelines from the Alberta Medical Association.
Darsey Milford's Turtle Mountain Pharmacy in Bellevue was the first independent pharmacy to migrate to the Alberta Netcare Portal in 2007. She says that the additional information now available to them makes it easier for pharmacists to help their patients make better lifestyle choices and improve their health.
"As pharmacists, if you're not using the Alberta Netcare Portal, you're not considering all of the information available which means you're not doing what's best for your patients."
Over the next two or three years, Alberta Health Services (AHS) will be making "thin" diagnostic imaging viewers available for use in doctors' offices and clinics across the province. Alberta has already created the repository of diagnostic imaging (DI) records and this next step will be the final phase in making that information available to referring physicians.