GNWT launches electronic health record system

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) launched a new health record system in Hay River Friday that is designed to improve the way health information is shared electronically in the NWT.

Known as the NWT HealthNet Viewer, the system is a web-based portal that will allow authorized health care professionals in the NWT “view-only” access to medical information including lab results, diagnostic imaging reports, clinical reports, patient lists and event history from health care centres across the NWT. The viewer is the first part of the interoperable Electronic Health Record (iEHR). The new system will allow health professionals to make more timely decisions as well provide better patient care.
Sandy Lee, Minister of Health and Social Services, called the viewer “an innovative tool” that will improve patient safety and allow treatment and care plans to be developed sooner.
“Today marks an important technological milestone in the delivery of health care in the Northwest Territories,” Lee said. “(The viewer) will allow doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals the ability to view electronically key information contained in a patient’s record.”
Once information is fed into the iEHR repository from one of the NWT’s four acute care facilities, it will be available to health care providers across the territory. Authorized users will require a security token, user ID, and password to access the system, and will only be able to view information relevant to their role.
Currently there are multiple information systems in each community, with limited remote access or sharing of information between the systems. With the new system, lab results will be available in the
Viewer once the results are known – compared with wait times of up to a number of weeks with current, paper-based results – while the possibility of duplicate exams will be eliminated. Initially the system will include text reports from Stanton, as well as laboratory results from Stanton, Hay River and Inuvik from June 30, 2009 onwards.
With the changes, the electronic information systems in the NWT will now be able to “speak to each other,” a HSS official explained, by reducing the number of systems involved, replacing old systems and by providing a more complete health care picture by implementing solutions that will capture and share information electronically.
“This is transforming the way we are providing care,” Michele Hancsicsak, HSS chief information officer, said at Friday’s press conference.
Health care providers asked for the system, and were actively involved in the process.
“These investments are all part of our strategy (A Foundation for Change),” Hancsicsak explained. The strategy has three goals: wellness (helping communities and individuals make healthy choices), accessibility (getting people the care that they need, when they need it), and sustainability (using resources efficiently to ensure the health care system is sustained for the future).
Currently 147 health care professionals have access to the new system, including those in Hay River, Aklavik, Fort Smith, Yellowknife and Fort Simpson, and others referred by the NWT to DynaLife Laboratory in Alberta. It will be rolled out to all NWT clinical users over the spring.
The health viewer was made possible through a partnership between Canada Health Infoway and the GNWT. Canada Health Infoway, a not-for-profi t organization that is tasked by the federal government to accelerate the development of electronic health records across Canada, invested $5.7 million in the project. The NWT HealthNet Viewer was developed using the technology found in Alberta’s Netcare Portal. It will continue to grow over time as more patient information becomes available electronically.