A regional health network in the Canadian province of Alberta has selected a U.S.-made electronic medical records system and related workflow software as "a fundamental building block" for a proposed province-wide clinical information connectivity project.
One ultimate goal of the IT project is to forge additional links with an effort already under way to electronically connect all physician offices and hospitals in the province served by nine publicly financed regions.
The deal is between Eclipsys of Boca Raton, Fla., and government-funded Calgary Health Region, which operates four major hospitals and nine community hospitals and provides health services to about 1 million people.
Calgary Health will place the Eclipsys Sunrise XA systems in its three adult urban hospitals and its Alberta Children's Hospital. Eclipsys and Calgary Health have had prior IT relations since 1989.
The value of the deal was not disclosed, according to Eclipsys spokesperson Judy Barnett.
Chris Eagle, M.D., vice-president and CIO of Calgary Health, also declined to be specific about the cost but said, due to the long-standing relationship with Eclipsys, "we think we've got some effective pricing."
"We certainly looked at what's on the market," Eagle says, adding that "when you have a relationship with a company and it's an effective one, it's hard to change that."
The SunriseXA workflow modules to be deployed in the Calgary Health Region include a computer-based patient record (CPR) and workflow engine, clinical documentation and medication management systems. The system will be hosted remotely by Eclipsys.
Eagle says the plan is to share data collected by the new system with a provincial electronic health record now under development. The provincial system is already coming on line with lab and pharmacy data, Eagle says.
In addition, a consortium of public health agencies and the Alberta Medical Association are overseeing an ambitious effort to place electronic medical records systems in physician offices throughout the province. The government has paid 70% of the cost of EMR systems already in use by about 1,300 of approximately 5,000 active Alberta physicians, according to an AMA spokesperson.
Calgary Health had one of the first Canadian hospitals to adopt computerized physician order entry when it installed CPOE at its academic medical center, Foothills Hospital, in 1990, Eagles says. A second hospital went online later, but two of the four major Calgary Health hospitals still use paper records, so launching the new Eclipsys system will be an upgrade for some physicians and a new way of doing business for others.
Eagle says Calgary Health plans a "carefully managed" rollout beginning in January 2004 and running to January 2008. He says the pace will be slowed by a dearth of physician informaticists in the province.
"What's different in this rollout than what happened in 1990, is a lot of these physicians have these systems already in their offices," Eagle says. "They're asking, 'Why don't we have the technology in the hospital?' There's been a whole mind-set change."