NB to allow more than one EMR provider for MDs
October 8, 2019
FREDERICTON – The New Brunswick Medical Society will shut down a company it launched to serve as the exclusive provider of a costly electronic medical records system for doctors’ offices in the province.
Velante Inc.’s operations will be “wound down” within 18 months, society CEO Anthony Knight (pictured) told CBC News. He hopes its 10 employees in Fredericton will be hired by the software vendor Velante used, Intrahealth, though it does not have an office in the capital.
It comes as a result of the provincial government’s decision to allow doctors to use other software providers in the hope that more physicians use electronic records over paper files.
Electronic medical records, or EMRs, allow physicians in family practice and at clinics to create digital files to record and receive a patient’s medical information, including real-time test results.
A family doctor, for instance, can be viewing a patient’s file and click a button that allows access to the provincial system, Knight said.
He said the society was informed that the province had decided to move to an “open market” for electronic records technology providers. The society supports the move.
“Some doctors have told us that they would like more choice, more options in the sphere of electronic medical records,” Knight said.
“So this change enables other EMR vendors to consider whether New Brunswick is a place they would like to make their product connect to the health system and offer their product to physicians to serve their patients in the province.”
How the privacy of patients will be protected with so many private operators is an issue the Department of Health will have to consider when it begins talks with potential EMR vendors, said Eric Lewis, a spokesperson for the medical society.
“There will be a privacy standard that all vendors must adhere to,” he said.
There will be an 18-month transition period to the open market. Knight said patients likely won’t notice any difference. If more doctors begin using electronic records, it could help doctors streamline their clinical practices, he said.
“In the near term, it should be business as usual for both doctors and patients,” Knight said.
The province said the decision was made after an “extensive review” of the system.
Ted Flemming, the provincial health minister, said what was leading-edge technology six years ago isn’t today, and the change allows doctors the option to pick what works for them. “It’s just the right thing to do.”
Flemming was previously critical of the system as health minister in 2014 when Velante’s initial enrolment fell short of its target, which he linked to the high cost for doctors to install the system. He wouldn’t say if cost was a factor in the province’s decision.
Velante was established as a for-profit company in 2012 to implement and deliver the electronic medical record system for doctors’ offices.
The medical society was the majority owner of Velanté, which awarded a contract for electronic medical records to Intrahealth, a New Zealand company. The society initially hoped to have 500 of the province’s 1,600 doctors use the system by the end of 2013.
The system cost about $24,000 per doctor, CBC reported in 2013. The province initially offered a subsidy of $4,000, with doctors required to pay $8,000 to join the system. A federal arm’s-length agency, Canada Health Infoway, covered the rest, the CBC reported.
But only 240 doctors had signed up by February 2014. Lately, 355 doctors have been using the Velante system out of the 700 who are eligible.
It’s not an issue for specialists and other doctors working out of hospitals, since they use the hospital records system.
In 2018, Velante’s financial statements indicate a profit of $821,861, though it received a provincial subsidy of $2,604,348.