Comment: Why doctors back IHealth, yet have concerns

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We read with great concern the recent commentary on IHealth (“Paper health records just can’t cut it,” March 10). Many of Dr. Larry Dallen’s assumptions are completely wrong, and show a lack of understanding of what has been happening at our hospital.


Contrary to his accusation, the doctors at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital strongly support a move from paper-based orders and records to electronic health records. We are committed to the objectives of EHR, to have one record per patient and to eliminate the safety concerns of the paper-based world. We have always been clear on this point, and indeed, it was this enthusiasm in part that led to Nanaimo being chosen as the first IHealth site on the Island.


Since the IHealth system was launched last March, Nanaimo physicians have consistently expressed our concerns that the current system and the way it has been implemented threatens patient safety and its inefficiency reduces patient access to care. It is our professional and ethical obligation to ensure that our patients receive quality, safe care, and we take that responsibility seriously.


Dr. Doug Cochrane in his review is very clear that the system at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is simply not working in the way it should be and acknowledged both our safety and efficiency concerns. In fact, he states it is only because of the diligence of frontline health-care staff that patient safety has been protected.


That is why three-quarters of the medical staff supported a demand for temporary suspension of IHealth. More than patches and work-arounds are needed; the system needs to be redesigned to ensure that it is safe for patients and efficient for users. And we want to be partners in this redesign so it works for everyone — frontline health workers and our patients.


We take strong exception to Dr. Dallen’s accusation that Nanaimo doctors are unengaged or obstructive. Many physicians at NRGH have volunteered thousands of hours before and after the rollout of IHealth to help address problems. That commitment is the major reason physicians have waited 11 months since the implementation of IHealth to demand its suspension.


We are struck that those who have never actually used the system continue to disparage the medical staff in Nanaimo. We want to assure the public that our doctors remain extremely engaged and are eager to work with our administrative colleagues and computer company to fix the system.


We were pleased that the minister of health and the Island Health board listened to our concerns, and agreed to suspend the system until much-needed improvements are made. However, we remain frustrated that — weeks after the board gave its direction — Island Health has yet to commit to a date for suspension.


This is the necessary step to redesign it to the satisfaction of providers and then reintroduce it, this time with a system that provides safety for our patients and efficiency for those who use it.


 


Dr. Jim Capstick (Anesthesia) and Dr. Michael Kenyon (ICU) are members of the advisory council of the Nanaimo Medical Staff Association and of the IHealth Revalidation Oversight Committee. Both have significant experience and proficiency with IHealth and continue to work with IHealth staff to improve it.

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