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Electronic health records

$72 million to be invested in ConnectingGTA

TORONTO – eHealth Ontario is spearheading an effort to ensure that facilities will be able to share electronic health information for Greater Toronto Area (GTA) residents, who represent 47 percent of the province's population.

The $72 million ConnectingGTA project will allow 700 service providers to securely share patient health information across the five GTA Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). Currently, electronic health information is shared in silos within the system.

The ConnectingGTA system would link 700 health providers, including 43 Toronto-area hospitals and 201 nursing homes. That means a doctor at one healthcare facility can see a patient's test result or drug information entered at another facility on the network.

Health Minister Deb Matthews says it’s money well spent.

“Fewer tests need to be done, better patient care, fewer medication errors – there are a number of ways that this will actually get better value for money,” she said. “This is a major step forward for eHealth Ontario.”

The CEO of the University Health Network, Dr. Robert Bell (pictured), said the project will make things easier for the typical patient.

“He might have had an MRI at Markham Stouffville, a bone scan at Toronto East General, a CAT scan somewhere downtown. [It’s] much more cost effective for me to learn about those investigations and study them prior to seeing the patient,” he said.

The first phase of the project will be completed in 2013.

But the system won’t connect family doctors’ files to other healthcare facilities.

Nevertheless, “ConnectingGTA will improve patient care for almost half of the province’s population and lead the way for other regional health system integration hubs in Ontario,” averred Greg Reed, President and CEO of eHealth Ontario. “This is a perfect example of how collaboration within the healthcare system is changing the way patients receive care.”

Patients will receive better, faster and more coordinated healthcare from their providers – and providers will be able to share information more effectively. Patients and providers will also benefit from improved productivity and more timely treatment. It will also reduce duplicate tests on patients which will save time and money.

In the project’s first months, priority patient data such as clinical reports, diagnostic images, drug information, and lab test results will be shared. Major technology pieces will also be put in place in the coming months to help providers access and exchange information more easily.

“The ConnectingGTA project represents the very essence of the work under way across Canada to place vital health information in the hands of healthcare professionals when they need it,” said Graham Scott, Chair of the Board, Canada Health Infoway, the organization investing federal dollars in information and communications technologies for health. “Knowing is better than not knowing, particularly when care decisions are being made and Infoway is proud to have invested almost $24 million in this project.”

ConnectingGTA is the latest in a series of eHealth Ontario milestones which include rolling out the Emergency Neuro Image Transfer System (ENITS), the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) adoption program, and the recent EMR procurement initiative for Ontario's Community Health Centres.

“All five GTA Local Health Integration Networks have identified the need for an integrated framework to support access to clinical data from across the care continuum. ConnectingGTA will foster collaboration among healthcare organizations to build towards the delivery of electronic health records,” said Mimi Lowi-Young, CEO, Central West Local Health Integration Network.

Added Dr. Robert Bell, President and CEO, University Health Network: “The ConnectingGTA project will benefit patients, clinicians, healthcare organizations and the healthcare system more broadly. It will allow clinicians to make decisions in real-time and enable collaboration amongst the whole healthcare team – from family physician to acute care specialist – resulting in better patient care.”

The University Health Network led the planning phase for ConnectingGTA and will draw on its strong track record to implement this initiative.

ConnectingGTA is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, eHealth Ontario, Canada Health Infoway, University Health Network, and the five GTA Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) – Central West, Toronto Central, Mississauga Halton, Central and Central East.

Posted May 19, 2011