E-health experts weigh in on Sask. auditor’s report

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SASKATOON – Saskatchewan’s acting auditor Judy Ferguson released the first volume of her 2014 report this week. The report describes the implementation of the government’s electronic health records system as fragmented and inefficient.

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Health care consultants, doctors, and data experts gathered in Saskatoon over the weekend to discuss electronic health implementation at the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada annual general meeting.

“Our role is to work with doctors to adopt this new and evolving technology,” said the federation’s chair Dr. Rocco Gerace.

Ferguson said different health regions are at different stages of implementing the electronic records system, something e-health experts say is a big pitfall.

“What it does to patients is it kind of destroys confidence in the system. It certainly impacts their feeling of how valuable the health care system is to them,” said Dr. Ward Flemons, a medical advisor with the Alberta Health Quality Council.

READ MORE: Auditor reveals gaps in Sask.’s electronic health records system

According to Ferguson, the government has spent $502 million since the implementation process began, but she says the government has not established any deadlines and there is no estimated total cost.

“If you don’t set goals or some targets, it’s never going to get done,” explained William Pascal with Richard Warren and Associates, an information technology consulting firm.

“I like the idea of holding people more accountable for deliverables, having them commit to it, and focus that energy. It’s a general principal of mine.”

The auditor’s report says it’s not uncommon for some patients to carry their health records between clinics and hospitals, because comprehensive, complete records aren’t easily transferred between different health regions.

“Part of it is, how to you make systems interoperate, when they really weren’t designed in the first place to do it,” said Pascal.

Ferguson wants the province to put forward a multi-year operational plan.

She would also like the government to standardize the data that goes into the electronic records system.

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