February 20, 2004

Debbie Neufert
Media Relations, LHSC
519-685-8500, ext. 74772


Partnership project nets enhanced patient care

Southwestern Ontario takes key step toward electronic health record

London, ON - The Honourable George Smitherman, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and Myrna Francis, Interim President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway, today announced funding for piloting a shared services project for digital diagnostic imaging in Southwestern Ontario.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is contributing $20 million in one-time funding for the Thames Valley pilot project. Canada Health Infoway is contributing $15 million for the pilot phase of the project.

"Our government is committed to healthier Ontarians in a healthier Ontario," Smitherman said. "The use of new technology, such as digital diagnostic imaging, is a vital part of our strategy to make our healthcare system more responsive to patient needs."

When completed, this project will represent one of the largest shared services DI implementations in the world.

Digital images are filmless - much like a digital camera. This filmless system enables radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians, at any one of the facilities in the pilot project, to view patients' test images (such as X-Rays and MRIs ) on a computer screen, instead of shipping imaging films from location to location.

"Patient care will be greatly enhanced through electronic access to digital images," says Diane Beattie, Chief Information Officer and Integrated Vice-President of St. Joseph's Health Care, London and London Health Sciences Centre. "Diagnostic imaging systems are an essential cornerstone in developing electronic health record (EHR) solutions."

After the pilot phase, the project will expand to other hospitals in Southwestern Ontario, and eventually serve as a model for other Canadian regions as the shared digital imaging technology network expands.

"This investment in enabling technology will allow our hospital organizations to transmit and access imaging information wherever and whenever the patient needs to access the health care system. This is without a doubt a huge step forward in our ability to provide the best in patient care," says Dr. Donald Taves, Chief of Radiology at St. Joseph's Health Care, London and Professor, University of Western Ontario.

The eight hospitals from the TVHPP involved in this partnership for the pilot phase of the project are: Alexandra Hospital in Ingersoll; Four Counties Health Services in Newbury; London Health Sciences Centre; St. Joseph's Health Care, London; St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital; Strathroy-Middlesex General Hospital; Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital, and Woodstock General Hospital.

Infoway has identified the online viewing of diagnostic images as a key building block to an Electronic Health Record. Infoway is an independent, not-for-profit corporation whose mission is to accelerate the development of Electronic Health Record systems across Canada. Secure and private lifetime records of key health history and care within the healthcare system are to be made available to authorized healthcare providers in support of patient safety and high quality care.

"This investment will allow Infoway to evaluate the benefits of a shared model approach, where hospitals of different sizes share the same Diagnostic Imaging systems. We intend to replicate this in other jurisdictions, helping provide affordable access for smaller hospitals and clinics to this technology which is critical to Electronic Health Records and to improving access to quality care," said Myrna Francis, Interim President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway.

Significant contributions and support from private partners Cerner Corporation, GE Healthcare, Hewlett-Packard Canada, and LARG*net have helped to ensure the success of this project.

Diagnostic imaging systems enable healthcare providers to view, manage, distribute and electronically store a patient's test images, MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, and medical files from any location connected through the system - regardless of where the test was conducted. The PACS (picture archiving and communication

system) captures, stores and sends images using digital technology.