WINDSOR – ClinicalConnect, a system that enables authorized caregivers to view the electronic patient records held in disparate databases, including those of hospitals and medical clinics, will now be used by facilities in the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).
ClinicalConnect was devised in the Hamilton and Niagara region of Ontario, where it has now been used for several years. It enables healthcare providers at one site to access the patient histories and test results at other facilities.
That means clinicians are able to make faster and more accurate diagnoses, often avoiding the need for additional, time-consuming diagnostic tests.
Dr. Kirk Hollohan (pictured), the clinical lead for the regional ehealth program, told the Windsor Star that, “We’re bringing patient records to a whole new level.
“This will bring together all the records from hospitals, CCACs, cancer centres and providers of primary care. That will translate into fewer errors, better care and more positive patient outcomes.”
Hollohan, formerly an emergency department physician for 15 years, said it will be particularly useful in critical situations.
“Information is a very powerful tool in an ER, and often you didn’t have immediate access,” said Hollohan, who is also helping family health teams and individual family physicians get enrolled in the system.
“Having that access will change patient outcomes. It’ll save lives.”
Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor Regional and Leamington District hospitals will run pilot projects to gauge what resources and support are required before going fully operational by the end of March.
ClinicalConnect is expected to save time and trouble for patients, as well as for physicians.
“The days of driving back down the (Highway) 401 because you didn’t bring a copy of a test for a specialist’s appointment will be gone,” said Shannon Tompkins, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare’s director of risk management and privacy officer. “If you’re cleared to access the information, you’ll be able to do so.
“There’ll be no delays. There will be less duplication of tests.”
Being armed with such information will allow healthcare professionals to determine the best service provider, care setting, treatment plan and will help improve patient flow through the system.
“The biggest benefit is that it will result in better patient care,” said Alison Anderson, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare’s director, health information management and technology.
Referring to past difficulties in accessing patient records that are stored in different facilities, Anderson said, “The information is not meant to be siloed.”
With concerns over the safety of electronically stored records, Tompkins said security has been a main focus. Access to those records will be limited to providers deemed to part of the patient’s “circle of care.” That could include everyone from social workers to surgeons.
However, patients also have the right to opt out of having their records electronically available. Patients can also “lock out’” any specific information from their file.
“With access comes great responsibility,” Tompkins said. “There’ll be a very robust auditing process on how the information is being used and to make sure only authorized people are accessing records.”
Mark Farrow, vice-president of informatics and communication technologies and chief information officer at Hamilton Health Sciences, said ClinicalConnect doesn’t actually store any electronic data.
“ClinicalConnect doesn’t store data, it creates connection points,” Farrow said. “Hospitals, CCACs, cancer care centres still hold all the data. “We have put in a lot more controls than there are for paper records.”
Hamilton Health Sciences is the solution provider deploying ClinicalConnect across the four south west local health integration networks.