The B.C. Ministry of Health has launched an independent review into IHealth. FILE PHOTO

Second review launched into IHealth

NDP government reviews IHealth system, Nanaimo doctors thrilled

Nanaimo Medical Staff Association is “thrilled” as B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix launches an independent review of Island Health’s electronic record system.

Dix has announced a review is being done into IHealth by Ernst and Young to look at IHealth’s costs, benefits, problems and what would be required to fix the paperless system.

Nothing is being ruled in or out, according to Dix, who expects the review will be completed later this fall.

It is the second probe by the province of the $178-million system in just over a year. Since its rollout at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and Dufferin Place last March, the system has caused concern among some doctors. Dr. David Forrest, president of the Nanaimo Medical Staff Association, previously said it was difficult to use and inefficient and expressed concern about patient safety. This year, a specialist was suspended after a group of internists returned to writing paper orders, no longer feeling they could support the system’s electronic computer order management process. According to Forrest, two internists have gone on medical leave and another two have been dropped from the call schedule and no longer provide on-call services.

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“It’s fair to say that this has been a problem for too long and I’ve listened to everyone and I’m determined to get to the bottom of it,” said Dix.

Dix sees electronic medical records in general as improving public health care with an intent to reduce errors and ensure doctors, patients and citizens have better access to information about their own health so they can make better decisions, but he also acknowledges there are significant problems, including in implementation.

“The intent was to have this implemented everywhere by now, by this year, and we’re still in Nanaimo. If we are going to move forward, we have to make sure we know what we’re doing and that’s the intent of the review,” he said.

The review is intended to be broader than last year’s probe led by Dr. Doug Cochrane and will look at progress on its recommendations.

Dix said the approach is supported by Cochrane, as well as Nanaimo Medical Staff Association, B.C. Nurses Union, Health Sciences Association and Island Health, which will all participate.

“We think this is the right approach and I’m very happy that all the people involved at the hospital are supportive of this independent review and I’m hoping it will help us make the right decisions for the people of Vancouver Island,” he said.

The IHealth system is intended to roll out in other hospitals on Vancouver Island. A provincial budget update released this week shows IHealth has cost $72 million as June 30 and is anticipated to total $100 million.

Dr. Ben Williams, executive lead for strategy and engagement at Island Health, said in an e-mailed statement that Island Health welcomes and supports the Ernst and Young review and encourages staff and medical staff to participate and contribute.

Forrest said the medical staff association is thrilled a further review is being called for by Dix and they are grateful to him, as well as local MLAs Leonard Krog and Doug Routley, who have advocated on their behalf.

“It’s been over a year since Dr. Cochrane did his review and made recommendations so clearly it’s time for those to be re-evaluated, but I think the importance of this is that it will build on that,” said Forrest, adding the question that is to be answered is whether the system does, or can do, what it’s intended to.

Fundamental problems with the system have not been addressed, which is why the medical staff association feels it’s critical for it to be re-evaluated, according to Forrest.

He said the culture in Nanaimo is difficult and toxic at the moment and he thinks it’s hoped the review will not just lead to something happening with IHealth, but also lead to changes in the relationship with the health authority and hopefully start to heal some wounds.

reporter@nanaimobulletin.com