Health Infostructure Atlantic
Health Infostructure Atlantic and Health Canada's $24M project will |
see all medical imagery in Atlantic Canada stored in digital form
including digital X-Rays. A cross jurisdictional network allows health
workers anywhere in the four provinces to access a patient's data.
In Pursuit of the Longitudinal Health RecordThe Atlantic Provinces have had interdependent health care delivery systems for decades. They are now using this fact to help create the prototype for our health care information system of the future.
Any Canadian who has made a recent visit to their local hospital, will be familiar with the small plastic card which you are issued on arrival. This card connects you and the hospital, to your complete online medical history within their institution.
Using your personal identification number, your physician or any administrator, can pull up your records and see when you last visited their cardiologist or the date of your last chest X-Ray.
What you probably haven't considered is that each one of these online systems is an island. The information that your local hospital holds about your treatment history is usually disconnected from the treatment history which was recorded when you travelled to a hospital 200 miles away for those special tests or the treatment you received at the walk in clinic last Thursday.
The Atlantic Provinces are working cooperatively on a program known as HIA or Health Infostructure Atlantic
The goals of this program are two fold.
1. Develop the widespread medical digital imaging capability necessary to allow health care providers in Atlantic Canada to collect and access all medical imagery in digital form. Types of medical images included are X-Rays, CATSCANS, Ultrasound and MRI;
2. Ensure the interoperability of the data storage and retrieval systems so that physicians in any Atlantic Province can access patient imagery from any other Atlantic Province through their provincial health care networks.
These are two remarkable achievements.
The investment in developing a totally digital approach to the collection of medical imagery, especially X-Rays, which have been film based for a 100 years, opens up enormous opportunities for cost savings and efficiencies.
"Cost savings in data storage and archiving alone makes this process worthwhile," says Geoff Rabbie, systems analyst with the New Brunswick Dept of Health and Wellness. Geoff explained, "Legal requirement to maintain X-Rays for seven years or more, mean that storage space alone becomes a significant cost; not to mention the cost of having staff file, retrieve and archive the X-Ray films."
However the real power in moving to the adoption of completely digital medical imagery is what happens next.
Once all of the medical imagery connected with every patient is stored centrally and digitally, it can then be accessed by: any physician; or any radiologist; anywhere in the province, provided they have access to the provincial health network.
Furthermore the provincial databases are being designed to communicate with one another, across the boundaries of each provincial health network. This means that medical imagery from any patient in Atlantic Canada; can now be accessed by any physician or any radiologist with access to any one of the four provincial health networks.
The implications of this are staggering.
Herman McQuaid, Director, Health Informatics, East Prince Health Facility PEI says, "Patients that used to carry their X-Rays with them from PEI to Moncton to be analyzed by a specialist, can now go directly to Moncton and have their X-rays made available when they get there.
Sometimes they don't have to go at all; the X-Ray analysis is done in Moncton without them, and then sent back to their GP."
Eventually we could see the day where, as long as there was a radiologist working somewhere in Atlantic Canada, a physician would have results back for a particular X-Ray within minutes rather than hours.
"Eventually we could see the day where, as long as there was a radiologist working somewhere in Atlantic Canada, a physician would have results back for a particular X-Ray within minutes rather than hours." explained Geoff Rabbie, "The impact on the physician's ability to make faster, more informed treatment decisions will be significant."
Our ultimate goal in this explains Rabbie is to create a "Longitudinal Health Record". By this he means that every patient in Atlantic Canada will eventually have available to their physician a complete online treatment record, including X-Rays, prescriptions, and trips to the walk in clinic, regardless of where that treatment was delivered in Atlantic Canada.
Once that happens, that small plastic card that you are issued on arrival at any Atlantic Canada hospital will be connecting you not only with the resources of your hospital, but with a medical capability that encompasses the pooled resources of four entire provincial health care systems.