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ITAC recognizes healthcare for IT excellence

Lung transplantTORONTO – The Information Technology Association of Canada handed out its annual Ingenious Awards earlier this month, and among the winners were two healthcare organizations – the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry, and St. Mary’s General Hospital, based in Kitchener, Ont.

The Ingenious Awards recognize excellence in the innovative use of information and communication technology. ITAC has been operating the Ingenious Awards since 2011.

Working with 93 different stakeholder groups, including Service Alberta and Alberta Health Services, Alberta Health created the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry, a service that enables donors to register their desires regarding donations online.

The registry was one of two winners in the Large Public Sector category. Before the introduction of the web-based registry, donors could only express their intent by signing the back of their Alberta Health card.

The new system ensures donors are readily identified and that proper consent is in place when required. With support from CGI, an information technology and business process firm, the registry was implemented by Alberta Health in just six months. Close to 50,000 persons have already signed on to the registry.

“Our goal was to make it easier for people to register their consent to donate, which is intended to contribute to increasing organ and tissue donation rates in Alberta,” said Sherri Kashuba, Interim Managing Director, Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Agency. “The registry has shown its worth through the growing numbers of Albertans who have registered to help save and improve the lives of others.”

Another winner was St. Mary’s General Hospital. With a growing number of patients showing up in the hospital ED, the top question patients ask when visiting is “How long will I wait?” St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener turned to technology to give residents more accurate information about how long they will wait to see a doctor.

The real-time ED wait time clock was developed in conjunction with the Waterloo Region technology company Oculys, and was named one of the six most innovative projects of 2014 by ITAC. It was also a winner in the Large Public Sector category.

With the wait time explained in easy to understand language and an accessible format, patients can make informed choices about how, when and where to seek care. The website includes:

• current estimated wait times to see a physician or nurse practitioner in the ED from the time of triage;

• the number of people waiting and the number being treated in the ED;

• a projection of wait times over the next six hours in the emergency department based on past trends;

• a list of alternatives to emergency department care.

The success of the technology prompted nearby Grand River Hospital in Kitchener to launch its own real-time wait time website, also powered by Oculys. Kitchener-Waterloo is the first and only region in Ontario where patients have convenient access to real-time Emergency Department wait times at two local hospitals.

Following the launch of the Wait Time Website, the St. Mary’s General Hospital ED saw a 12% reduction in the volume of CTAS 4 and 5 patients (those who are less sick). The trend remains consistent. More than 4,000 people refer to the website clock each month, and the website estimated wait time has been shown to be more than 90 percent accurate.

“When we first launched this website we weren’t quite sure what to expect,” said St. Mary’s General Hospital President, Don Shilton. “We didn’t know if people would use it. We were pleasantly surprised when, right from the beginning thousands of people began accessing the site each month. When we talked to those who were using the site they said how much they appreciated knowing what to expect.

“It helped them make informed decisions about when to come to the ED or even to decide not to come to the ED and instead seek care from the family physician or go to an urgent care facility.”

“The award recipients are exceptional examples of how excellence and innovation in ICT can touch people’s lives,” said ITAC President and CEO Karna Gupta. “The winners of the Ingenious Awards represent the best of what our sector is doing to improve business and life in Canada, and help build a leading digital economy.”

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