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Local Electronic health records expanding

By Johanna Weidner, Record staff 

Local electronic health records system expanding

Dr. Mohamed Alarakhia demonstrates ClinicalConnect at the Centre for Family Medicine, Tuesday. ClinicalConnect is a secure online portal that allows doctors, nurses and pharmacists to access patient's electronic medical information in local hospitals and community care access centres.

KITCHENER — When Susan Barnard had a colonoscopy and was told a couple biopsies were being sent for testing, the worrying began.

Thankfully relief came just two days later when her family doctor called to tell her the results all came back clear.

“It certainly made my life a lot easier,” said the Hamilton woman.

Her friend who had the colon cancer screening test around the same time waited six weeks before hearing from the specialist about the results.

Barnard found out quickly thanks to ClinicalConnect, a secure online portal for health care providers to access a patient’s electronic health record.

The innovative system developed locally in Waterloo, Wellington and Hamilton regions received a $5 million investment from eHealth Ontario on Tuesday to expand.

An added 600 clinicians will be connected to the system, which is already used by 2,500 health care providers and 28 hospitals in the Waterloo Wellington and Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant local health integration networks — allowing instant access to two million patient records.

Revolutionary is how Kitchener family doctor Dr. Mohamed Alarakhia describes the online portal.

“It has been unbelievable and it has changed care,” said Alarakhia, who has been using it for about a year.

Family doctors like Alarakhia, doctors and nurses in hospital, and specialists can look up their patient’s records online, including treatment plans, medications, test results and hospitalization information across regional boundaries.

Advantages include saving time tracking down test results, avoiding duplicate tests, less exposure to radiation from tests and fewer medical errors.

Alarakhia easily thought of several instances when ClinicalConnect came in handy during the Tuesday afternoon presentation at the Centre for Family Medicine in downtown Kitchener, one of the medical centres benefitting from the system.

One patient couldn’t remember the medication he got in hospital that caused an allergic reaction, and Alarakhia quickly looked up the drug to avoid another problem.

Before a new patient who had heart surgery came in for his first visit, Alarakhia reviewed all his medical information for a more efficient appointment.

“ClinicalConnect does make a real difference in patient care,” he said.

Health care providers in the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network linked through ClinicalConnect include Cambridge Memorial, St. Mary’s General, Groves Memorial, Guelph General, Louise Marshall, and Palmerston and District hospitals, with Grand River Hospital in progress, the Community Care Access Centre and eight family health teams and centres.

Supporting the expansion of regional initiatives like ClinicalConnect, rather than the creation of a provincewide system, is part of the government’s plan to develop electronic health records for all Ontario residents by 2015.

“ClinicalConnect has been proven to be a terrific tool,” said Greg Reed, president of eHealth Ontario.

Sharing records between health care providers and hospitals saves time for both patients and doctors, saves the province money by avoiding duplication and makes care better and safer.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the best possible care for patients,” said Sophia Aggelonitis, MPP for Hamilton Mountain.