Seven Ontario organizations launch region-wide EHR system
June 30, 2022
More than 1.5 million Ontarians are getting better, safer and more efficient healthcare, thanks to the new Clinical Information System (CIS) launched by a partnership of seven acute care hospital organizations located in Ontario’s Central East region.
It’s one of the most wide-reaching electronic record systems – in terms of the number of patients served – yet to be deployed in the province.
Coming together amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizations – Campbellford Memorial Hospital, Haliburton Highlands Health Services, Lakeridge Health, Northumberland Hills Hospital, Peterborough Regional Health Centre, Ross Memorial Hospital and Scarborough Health Network – have taken huge strides to improve patient care at a moment in time when health is top of mind.
Since December 2021, the regional partnership has been using the Epic electronic health record system, enabling a patient’s digital record to be made available across 14 hospital sites.
Prior to the launch, the partners were running independent systems. This meant hospitals in the region couldn’t easily share patients’ health information and sometimes the same tests had to be conducted over again. The difficulties and devastation of the pandemic illuminated the importance of having a shared CIS in place to ensure optimal care for patients across the Central East region.
The new regional CIS provides those patients with one digital record that can be shared across these seven organizations. There’s quick access to a secure and easily navigated portal to view their health information, including test results and medications, leading to faster diagnoses and treatment plans.
“We wanted to reach that utopian state where when a patient arrives at any of our hospitals, we know everything about their relevant health history – so that they get the safest and highest quality of care,” said Dr. Ilan Lenga, chief information officer and chief medical information officer at Lakeridge Health.
David Graham, Interim President & CEO at Scarborough Health Network, who is the current administrative lead for the Central East Regional Operations Team: “What we were attempting to accomplish with our new regional CIS was to have the enabling technologies required to bring state-of-the-art quality and safety tools to the bedside. We are already seeing that in practice since the rollout.”
This upgrade required technology and data storage that respected Canadian privacy laws on personal health information, in addition to being able to expand and pivot when necessary, and sustain patients in the region for decades – all while being cost-effective.
The size, scale, and scope of the seven-organization member partnership was much greater than what any one hospital group had managed previously in Ontario. They felt Amazon Web Services (AWS) was particularly attractive as an infrastructure capable of hosting the new CIS, due to its time-tested ability to provide a high level of performance with large-scale projects.
The hospital organizations always had a regional vision for a hosted environment. They turned to AWS for secondary data storage and disaster recovery to find an innovative and secure solution that would allow the project to meet a 2021 calendar year go-live date. The hospitals collaborated with Epic, AWS and its implementation partner, Deloitte, to build, test, and deploy the new CIS.
“A hosted CIS was our end goal from the very beginning, but hosting that CIS became quite urgent,” said Graham. “AWS’s ability to move quickly to come up with a solution was a key enabler of us meeting our deadlines in the time we needed for implementation.”
Andrew Kelly, chief digital officer for the Central East Regional Operations Team, who leads a team of approximately 120 in providing a centralized IT delivery service around the shared CIS to the seven organizations, noted: “Deloitte and AWS worked with us not only to design an innovative disaster recovery solution tailored to our specific needs, but also to deliver it in a remarkable few-months timeframe rather than the initial one-year timeline.”
As Dai Mukherjee, partner at Deloitte Canada pointed out: “Their openness to rethinking its strategy for disaster recovery allowed them to not only meet its go-live date, but also helped advance its journey into the cloud.”
The decision is already saving the regional partnership money – they estimate $10 million over 10 years due to eliminating the expense of setting up a secondary data centre. Because of AWS’s on-demand service offerings, the group can scale parts of the infrastructure down to save costs during normal operations, when the disaster recovery system is not in active use.
“Hospitals need their CIS systems to be fast, reliable and secure,” said Larry Sylvestre, healthcare lead, AWS Canada.
“Migrating electronic health records to the cloud allows hospitals to leverage AWS’s infrastructure to help minimize the risk of failure and the time to recover.”
Graham says he’s still impressed by how seven different organizations managed to so quickly tackle a very complex problem – and how successful it has been.
“There are people who don’t believe healthcare can move quickly, and that it’s unable to do so, and this project demonstrates that that’s not the case – and through a pandemic! I am incredibly proud of our regional partnership and believe we are establishing ourselves as healthcare leaders in Ontario.”
Rejean Bourgault is the country manager for AWS Canada.