Island Health official says organization not opposed to review of IHealth program

NANAIMO – But Dr. Martin Wale, Island Health deputy chief medical officer, says the timing isn't right for an external review of IHealth.

The timing is not right for an external review of IHealth, according to Dr. Martin Wale, Island Health’s deputy chief medical officer.

Wale said Island Health is not opposed to an external review, but he doesn’t believe the timing is right and there would be massive risks to stopping IHealth now.

The electronic health record system, which rolled out earlier this year, is being implemented in Nanaimo first before being rolled out to north Island hospitals, Cowichan, the west coast and finally Victoria.

Island Health needs to learn from the difficult process it’s had in Nanaimo, according to Wale, who acknowledges it has been difficult.

Recently, New Democrat MLAs, along with Dr. David Forrest, president of Nanaimo’s medical staff association, called for an independent, expedited and external review of the $178-million electronic record system.

“It’s a really complex, difficult thing to do, putting in a system of this nature given the complexity of health care and the size of the hospital. We would like to learn from that process before we repeat it,” he said, adding if an external review is done now it would reduce resources on site to support physicians and increase the pain.

He also said there would be significant risks to patients in suspending IHealth while an independent review happens. All the lab tests, X-rays, drugs – everything related to patient care – is linked into this process, according to Wale, who adds if it’s a part-paper system you don’t know what’s in the electronic record, you don’t know what’s on paper, you don’t know where that paper is gone so it’s more difficult to get a complete picture of what’s happening with the patient.

Wale says Island Health has confidence in the system, but also called it a big and complex process.

The range of things that can potentially trip people up is huge, he said.

He said Island Health is working with physicians on an individual basis to improve their ability to use the system and there are supports available, including a help line.

He also said the health authority has become aware over the past four weeks that physicians at NRGH have been getting tired with the added complexity of the new system.

Wale said measures have been put in place to reduce the number of people coming through the hospital, and in getting people discharged more quickly so the number of patients being looked after has gone down, and there has been a focus on recruitment for hospitalists and in internal medicine.