Saturday, June 06, 2009

User group meeting

I went to the annual user group meeting last weekend. I believe that bringing together users is extremely valuable; we shared many tips and tricks on how to use the EMR more efficiently and effectively. We complained a lot, and laughed a lot too. I met several colleagues who were at various stages of implementation; more experienced users were extremely generous in terms of sharing what works for them.

The EMR company's executive team were there; at the end of the meeting, we discussed our "wish list". Some of the requests were:

  • Templates that can be exported and shared with others (the #1 request)
  • Increased scheduling flexibility for larger groups
  • Improved data mining and reporting capabilities
  • Better ways of entering and reporting chronic disease management data
  • Ongoing training
The head programmer demonstrated the new data mining software they are working on; this looks like it fishes data straight out of the database, and should give "power users" a lot of control over what is reported. I can't see having everyone learn database management skills, but several of us are getting more and more interested in seeing what we can do with all the data we are accumulating. Perhaps what will develop in some groups is data expertise (this does not have to be a physician), so that quality improvement projects can be started for entire groups. It will be much easier to do this for groups of physicians rather than for solo physicians. I think the formation of groups in Ontario (Family Health Groups/Networks/Organizations/Teams) is likely to bring benefits in terms of data management capabilities.

The company talked about their plans for "reportable fields". There was a lot of interest around this. As far as I understand it, this is new fields that can be inserted into templates, and that automatically go into into flowsheets, and that can be searched for later.

Altogether, I think this was a valuable meeting to attend, and I plan to attend next year. The EMR is now so central to our practices that it is worth investing time and effort to build and maintain proficiency in it.

Our last two filing cabinets were sold and picked up, and I did a happy dance over the floor space where they used to be; there is now a lot of space at the front. Our moving date to the new office looks like it will be in August (likely August 22nd), and I am trying to get rid of as much paper as possible. We still have some paper handouts, and these are getting tossed out. I'll have a look around and make sure that we are as paper-lite as possible.

The move to the new office is much more complex due to the EMR. eHealth Ontario is overseeing the internet connection in the new office, and we have to make sure that there is overlap (we need to have two SOFAs--Small Office Firewall Appliances) during the transition so that we can continue to function. We are investigating VOIP phones as a group. I have to make sure all the wiring is planned properly and that there is redundancy for the future. I have a small IT closet in the office for all the routers. I started an Excel spreadsheet of all the things we have to do, and this is growing faster than public health swine flu notices.

I took part in the CPCSSN national meeting later in the week. CPCSSN is composed of 9 different sites in Canada, and all sites are reporting anonymous EMR data on five different chronic illnesses: diabetes, hypertension, depression, Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease and osteoarthritis. I am part of the Toronto group, Nortren. There are eight different EMRs involved, so this is a very complex project. It looks like this is feasible, and primary care can be used safely and effectively for chronic disease surveilance. This likely represents an important part of the future of Public Health.

Finally, it upsets me a great deal to read about the problems currently besetting eHealth Ontario. I agree with Dr Brookstone's post, this will be a major distractor for the organization. My group has had multiple difficulties with eHO and its predecessor (SSHA), mainly centered around service provision and communication; however, I completely agree with Allan that this is a large and complex undertaking. The current chair, Dr Hudson, and the previous CEO, Sarah Kramer, have extensive knowledge and experience in this sector; I hope the executive branch of eHO will be able to maintain focus on their priorities. This news release came from our Minister of Health, David Kaplan, today:

"The board reported to me that the current uncertainty surrounding eHealth Ontario threatens to delay initiatives that are crucial to our government's plan to modernize and improve our health care system.

I am acting immediately upon its request to revoke Sarah Kramer's appointment as eHealth Ontario President and Chief Executive Officer. Ron Sapsford, Deputy Minister of Health and Long Term Care, will serve as acting President and Chief Executive Officer of eHealth Ontario until an interim President and CEO can quickly be appointed.

This decision is an important step to restore public confidence in the agency and its mandate of modernizing our health care system."


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