A universal record

In conversation with a Nova Scotian surgeon about electronic patient files, this specialist said, “The problem in Nova Scotia is there are 17 different electronic systems for records.”

I suggested that with the merger of the nine health authorities into one provincial authority, plus the IWK, we had cut down on the number of electronic file systems used. And that most of the these systems could now communicate with each other. When we had nine independent authorities most operated software which was incompatible with all the others. So electronic patient files were only readable by professionals in that particular authority. This was no good when a patient had to leave to see or receive specialist treatment elsewhere – usually Halifax.

According to the Minister there are currently six programs in use in the province.

The surgeon’s response, “Maybe they whittled them down in half. Wonderful. It’s ridiculous. It’s beyond ridiculous, it’s moronic. It’s moronic that Canada doesn’t have one (patient file) system. We’re smaller than California and why can’t we have a single medical system?”

Put that way, it’s a brilliantly simple question. And solution. How much money are various health authorities and provinces spending to duplicate or develop unique-to-them software when something already exists and could be plucked off a shelf? It would save money, time, reduce patient discomfort and pain, and speed processing and delivery of patient care.

Looking from Atlantic to Pacific to Arctic oceans, Canada seems a big ponderous place. But put in context to higher population concentrations, it should be fairly simple and practical to have one medical record system for the entire country. That would be a step towards true universality.

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1 Response to A universal record

  1. Bill Swan says:

    Part of the issue is sunk costs. Many departments invested heavily in high-end, incredibly expensive enterprise-level software solutions and training when that was the only way to ensure some level of security and “usability” – but not interoperability. Now a lot of people’s jobs depend on that model, so they are resistant. Current open-source solutions are made to talk to each other, excruciatingly cost-effective and, ironically, far more secure than the high-end and leaky legacy enterprise software.

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