Technology leader commends government for push towards electronic health records

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

One of the island’s leading advocates for the digitization of medical records, Doug Halsall, has applauded the government for its decision to approve a $780 million contract to implement phase two of its electronic health record (EHR) management system.

The EHR system aims to streamline Jamaica’s public health sector and make it more efficient through the use of technology.

The implementation contract was awarded to Phoenix Partnership (Leeds) Ltd, a global leader in health technology that works with governments to improve health outcomes, tackle inequalities in care, reduce the cost of health services and improve the experience of improve patients and doctors.

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

“Digital is not an option, it is a must if we are to achieve efficiencies, and certainly efficiencies in healthcare,” Halsall said Jamaica Observer less than 24 hours after Minister of Health 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 computer services to banks, credit unions, retail, hospitality, and the tourism and health insurance industries — said he would have preferred When the EHR has awarded the contract to a Jamaican company, he still wants to see the program implemented successfully.

The AIS leader said that in his many years as a technology specialist, he has learned that a critical area for success in setting up an enterprise system in any industry, and particularly in government, is effective change management.

“The success of any business system…requires leadership with industry knowledge in addition to computer and technology knowledge because if you want to explain to nurses, doctors or radiologists why you are automating and you are digitizing you have to be able to sell them the benefits, and so, for obvious reasons, it helps to understand their industry so that you can speak to them in their language,” Halsall said.

“I would advise the Department of Health to ensure that in addition to the required project management skills, some change management skills are in place and the change manager is given 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, who pointed out that his company is currently digitizing medical 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 noted that the EHR system includes, but is not limited to, a range of data management activities such as demographics, medical history, medications and allergies, vaccination status, laboratory test results, radiological images, vital signs, personal statistics such as age and weight, and billing information.

“It will also look at disease registries and health records, where health data and the nurturing of information will be shared by patients and providers,” the health secretary said.

Tufton noted that the award is related to the urgent need for increased health systems integration.

“This strategy is rooted in the Information Systems for Health framework, which is an integrated effort for the convergence of interconnected and interoperable systems, data, information, knowledge, processes, standards, people and institutions, supported by ICTs that interact, to generate, identify, collect, process, store and make freely and publicly available quality data and strategic information for better policy and decision-making processes in public health systems,” he said.

The health secretary added that the EHR system, which has a “one patient, one record” philosophy, will have several features including a patient registration system for scheduling appointments and assigning patients in the facility’s triage process; the seamless interface of critical diagnostic imaging that will allow physicians to view X-rays and CT scans on computers and tablets already deployed at these facilities; and the uploading and sharing of medical records, or “lists,” within the public healthcare system, allowing healthcare professionals to track patients’ medical histories and view procedures performed.

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

He told his parliamentary colleagues that the EHR will result in significant savings for patients as test results will be readily available and the opportunity to take tests more than once will be significantly reduced.

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


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