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Interior Health Authority implements SpeechQ

April 2011

Interior Health focuses on 'people and process'
to enhance use of the EHR

CIO Mal Griffin also observes that personal health records will transform healthcare delivery in the future.

Mal Griffin is Chief Information Officer at Interior Health, one of five geographically based health authorities in British Columbia. Interior Health serves a large geographic area – almost 215,000 square kilometres and includes larger cities such as Kelowna, Kamloops, Cranbrook, Penticton and Vernon, and a multitude of rural and remote communities. It has an overall budget of $1.7 billion and has 17,800 employees, of whom approximately 1,300 are physicians. Interior Health includes 16 community hospitals, four service area hospitals and two tertiary referral hospitals. Canadian Healthcare Technology recently asked Mr. Griffin about Interior Health's information technology strategy.

CHT: What are the health IT priorities at Interior Health for the next 2-3 years?

Griffin: During the next two to three years, Interior Health IMIT is focused on four priorities. They are:

  1. Completing the integration with and adoption of the BC eHealth Program.
  2. Completing the modernization upgrade of our Meditech clinical information system.
  3. Supporting the organizational goals of quality, cost control, access and culture.
  4. Innovation.

CHT: What are your major projects under way now and in the queue for the near future?

Griffin: Our largest initiative is the clinical information systems platform upgrade. We started planning for the three-phase initiative in 2006 and launched it in 2008. The first phase was standardization and process optimization and involved over 500 clinicians in 30 project teams for a 14-month period. The second phase began in the fall of 2009 and involved the system build and implementation planning. The third phase, implementation, began in the fall of 2010 and it will be complete by the end of 2012.

CHT: Why are these important?

Griffin: The primary driver behind our clinical information systems upgrade initiative is enhanced clinical adoption. Interior Health's South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver, B.C., became the first facility to reach Stage 6 on the HIMSS EMR Adoption Scale. While this project was an unprecedented success from a quality and safety perspective, we learned that clinician adoption of technology is not easy and if we were to expand the use of the solutions in Oliver, we needed to provide our clinicians with a better user interface.

CHT: Are there any unique aspects to the work or new ways or technologies that will be implemented?

Griffin: Although Interior Health clinicians have been using a single instance, fully integrated clinical information system across the spectrum of care since April 2005, many of the processes and nomenclatures were not standardized. The absence of standards causes many inefficiencies, so when we put together our business case for the upgrade, the largest portion of the investment was focused on people and process. In fact, our motto has become people and process before technology.

CHT: What are the constraints on what you'd like to do? Ways of dealing with these?

Griffin: We are constrained by limited human and capital resources. However, our senior executive team and Board have been very supportive in enabling us to be focused on fewer priorities – i.e. the clinical information system upgrade is our primary focus. Despite that, each year we do attempt to allocate a small amount of funding and capital on innovation. For example, last year we implemented Lanier Voice Recognition for diagnostic imaging across the health authority. The project has been a tremendous success, as more than 75 percent of radiology reports are frontend recognized and signed off by the radiologists.

CHT: What kind of IT budget is the region working with? What kind of human resources?

Griffin: Our operating budget is slightly under 3 percent of the organizations' operating budget. Over the past two years capital funding for IMIT has been very limited and we don't anticipate this to change in the near future. However, necessity is the mother of invention and less money forces us to be creative and more efficient.

CHT: What are the major trends you foresee for the future?

Griffin: My personal belief is that personal health records are the future. The way in which our information systems are currently constructed and configured will not support future delivery models. I believe we will see some disruptive innovation in this area in the near future, which will be patient-driven and accessed primarily through mobile technologies.

CHT: What kind of contribution will these systems make to patient care and healthcare productivity?

Griffin: PHRs will help transform the way care is delivered. We will always need facility-based services, and technology will enable us to become more efficient and effective in this context. However, much of the care will be delivered within the community setting and I believe these models will be truly patient-centred with multiple providers (and the patient) accessing and contributing to the patient record. The key difference will be the patient rather than the provider as steward or custodian of the information.