Group Health Centre prepares for exciting new records system


The countdown is on at the Group Health Centre (GHC), as staff prepare for the launch of the Centre's new electronic medical records system (EMR). The project has been underway since last year, when the GHC chose to work with EPIC - one of the premier electronic health systems specialists in the United States. GHC's new system will be the third of its kind in Canada.

No stranger to being on the forefront of technology, GHC's current EMR system, developed by Clinicare, was one of the first in Canada at the time it was launched (in 1997). While updates had been made over the years, the over-15-year-old software had become dated - and last year, GHC learned that support for the Clinicare product was being discontinued.

Seizing this opportunity, GHC launched a comprehensive review - not only of the EMR system, but of all internal processes and technologies. After considering a dozen viable options, EPIC rose to the top because of their exciting functionality, outstanding support, and their potential as a long-term strategic partner.

"EPIC is the acknowledged industry leader in EMR software," said Ralph Barker, Vice President of Information and Communications Technology at GHC. "EPIC provides GHC with the tools necessary to support our physicians and other providers in being national leaders in delivering quality healthcare to our patients."

Thousands of hours will be poured into staff training over the next few weeks preparing for the Feb. 24 launch. Over 600 people will be trained on EPIC, ranging from physicians and support staff, to local pharmacies and labs that will access EPIC to fill prescriptions and complete tests.

These partnerships with local pharmacies and labs are extensions of several unique pilot programs, available only at a few health facilities in Ontario. For example, doctors and patients at GHC have been one of only two groups in Ontario to enjoy paperless, "e-prescribing" services since 2009. The move to EPIC sees better integration of these services into a patient's electronic medical record, and helps GHC retain its place as one of the most technologically advanced physician group practices in Canada.

As for exciting new features for patients, "MyChart" -- accessible online or from Android and iOS smart phones - will provide patients a window into their medical records, giving them more control than ever before over their personal health information. While MyChart likely won't launch until summer 2014, it will offer great features, including: access to medical history, appointment information, and immunization records; the ability to book appointments and renew prescriptions online; and the ability for caregivers to gain proxy access to the medical records of their children or elderly parents.

"I have seen how the new system will improve documentation and communication between patients and health care providers, and improve overall patient care," said Dr. Brian Mitchell - Chairman of the Group Health Centre Board of Directors, and one of the physicians at the Centre involved in the project. "All of the physicians on the project team are extremely enthusiastic about the opportunities that use of EPIC will bring to the GHC."

All of these exciting new features do pose a bit of a learning curve for staff, so there is hope that the public will be patient as GHC begins their transition to the new system. More details for patients with appointments in the first few weeks following the Feb. 24 launch will be made available closer to that date.

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