Tech leader praises government for pushing electronic health records

Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton (left) and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems Doug Halsall shake hands during a social event.

ONE of the island’s leading advocates for the digitization of medical records, Doug Halsall, has given the Government his thumbs up for its decision to approve a $780 million contract to implement the second phase of its electronic health records management system. (EHRs).

The EHR system is being designed to optimize Jamaica’s public health sector and create greater efficiency through the use of technology.

The contract for its implementation was awarded to Phoenix Partnership (Leeds) Ltd, a leading global provider of healthcare technology, working together with governments to improve health outcomes, address inequalities in care, reduce costs of health services and improve the patient and doctor experience. .

According to Halsall, president and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems (AIS), an information technology solutions company, anything that promotes digitization is a good thing.

“Digitalization is not an option, it is imperative if we are to achieve efficiency and it certainly is efficiency in the healthcare sector,” Halsall told the Jamaican Observer less than 24 hours after the Health Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, made the announcement in Parliament on Tuesday.

Halsall, who has more than 40 years of experience leading IT development in Jamaica, including introducing IT services to the banking, credit union, retail, hospitality and tourism, and health insurance industries, said that even if he would have preferred After the EHR awarded the contract to a Jamaican company, they still want to see the program successfully implemented.

The AIS chief said a lesson he has learned over his many years as a technology specialist is that a critical area for success in establishing a business system in any industry, and particularly in government, is effective change management.

“The success of any business system…requires leadership with industry knowledge as well as knowledge of computers and technology because if you’re going to convince nurses, doctors or radiologists why you’re automating and digitizing, you’ve got to to be able to sell them the benefits, and for obvious reasons, it’s helpful if you understand their industry so you can speak to them in their language,” Halsall said.

“I would advise the Ministry of Health to ensure that in addition to the assumed project management skills, there are some change management skills and that the change manager has the autonomy to speak to department heads with the authority of the institution. That’s certainly one of the lessons we learned from our experience at the University Hospital of the West Indies,” added Halsall, noting that his company is currently digitizing health records at that hospital.

In his statement in Parliament on Tuesday, Tufton noted that the EHR management system is the first component of the Government’s national plan for a health information system.

He pointed out that the EHR system includes, among others, a variety of data management activities, such as demographics, medical history, medications and allergies, vaccination status, laboratory test results, radiology images, vital signs, personal statistics such as age. and weight, and billing information.

“It will also address disease registries and health records where patients and providers will share health data and information maintenance,” the health minister said.

Tufton noted that the contract award comes in the context of the urgent need for greater integration of health systems.

“This strategy is rooted in the framework of information systems for health which is an integrated effort for the convergence of interconnected and interoperable systems, data, information, knowledge, processes, standards, people and institutions, supported by interacting ICTs. to generate, identify, collect, process, store and make available to the public and free of charge, quality data and strategic information to improve the processes of policy formulation and decision-making in public health systems,” he said.

The health minister added that the EHR system, which has a ‘one patient, one record’ philosophy, will have several features including a patient registration system for appointment setting and patient assignment in the triage process of the facility; the seamless interface of critical diagnostic imaging that will allow clinicians to view x-rays and CT scans on computers and tablets that have already been provided within these facilities; and the uploading and sharing of health records or ‘files’ within the public health system, allowing health professionals to track patient history and see what interventions have been performed.

According to Tufton, with this linkage of health records, cross-comparison and information sharing between health centers and hospitals will now be possible.

He told his fellow parliamentarians that the EHR will generate significant savings for patients, as test results will be readily available and the chance of completing tests more than once will be significantly reduced.

Tufton further noted that the investment now makes telemedicine a reality for Jamaica, with collaboration between specialists and primary care health professionals now possible.

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