IBM Launches EHR Platform Serving 1 Million Patients in Canada

With dbMotion's eChart Manitoba application, IBM has activated what it plans to be the country's first province-wide electronic health record platform, in Manitoba, Canada.

IBM has gone live in Manitoba, Canada, with the initial phase of what it says will be the country's first full province to connect to an EHR plaform.

A key component of the $22.5 million project is the eChart Manitoba application from EHR provider dbMotion. With a single log-on from any PC, clinicians can access 30 million records, including patients' lab results, drug records and immunization histories, IBM reports.

The EHR database could improve the continuity of care for 1 million patients in Manitoba with fewer medical errors, duplicate treatments and unnecessary testing, according to IBM.

For the project, IBM's Initiate data-sharing applications helps eliminate duplicate EHRs in the database, IBM reports.

Kildonan Medical Centre was the first facility to use eChart Manitoba when the platform went live in its first phase on Dec. 6. Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald announced the project on March 9. By July, the platform will be live at 30 sites in the province, Oswald said in a statement.

An additional phase will go live in October with IBM's goal for the platform to include 100 percent of clinicians' data across the province while covering 100 percent of the Manitoba population.

"As more sites become linked to eChart, it will be possible for a person's key health information to travel with them to different health providers across the province," Oswald said.

The first sites to connect to eChart Manitoba will be various primary-care facilities and emergency rooms, Oswald said.

Other clinics in the province that were chosen to access eChart Manitoba include Seven Oaks General Hospital emergency department in Winnipeg, Brandon Hospital's emergency department in Brandon and Centre Albert-Galliot Medical Centre, Notre Dame de Lourdes.

"Connecting not just one facility to its surrounding community but an entire province is a huge undertaking," Peter van der Grinten, dbMotion's vice president of partners and alliances, wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK.

"The collaboration among the multitude of vendors needed to develop the number of systems to feed critical patient data is a significant achievement," he added.

For Manitoba, IBM managed the EHR project and provided analysis and design services, while Novell provided a security component, according to Giovanni Vatieri, IBM's health practice leader.

As part of its change management work, IBM also trained users on how to reengineer the EHR software for this project, Vatieri told eWEEK.

Although eChart Manitoba is called an EHR platform in Canada, the project has components similar to the data-sharing networks in the United States known as HIEs (health information exchanges), he explained.

"There are components in this that might be defined as HIE, but in Canada, we generally talk about them as EHRs," Vatieri said.

The platform includes an HIE-like integration layer that allows for data sharing, and the presentation layer enables EHRs to be viewed.

Canada Health Infoway, a nonprofit firm funded by the Canadian government to accelerate the development of EHRs in the country, allocated $27.5 million to the project and established its requirements.

"When clinicians are properly informed, patient care is improved, [and] time and money are saved, as are precious lives," Richard Alvarez, president and CEO of Canada Health Infoway, said in a statement.

Along with the benefits of data access while using an EHR application like eChart Manitoba comes the responsibility to protect patients' data, Oswald noted.

"It's critical that health-care providers have the information they need but just as critical that people's personal information is protected," the minister said.

In the United States, CDW Healthcare highlighted this fact in a study revealing that half of Americans distrust EHR applications.