Doctor urges government to make online information system a priority

Barb Sweet
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Dr. Stephen Major of St. John’s says an electronic record-keeping system would help doctors improve patient care. — Telegram file photo

A St. John’s doctor says the pro­vincial government hasn’t help­ed physicians come into the 21st century when it comes to electronic records.

Dr. Stephen Major said the issue wasn’t on the radar during the election campaign, but financial help for all clinics would improve care for patients.

Health Minister Jerome Kennedy was not available for comment.

The brief response from his department was in an emailed statement: “The provincial government is currently exploring the possibility of implementing an electronic medical record (system) in the province for physicians working outside of a hospital setting.”

The province has conducted pilot projects on electronic records in clinics, but funding to help all doctors upgrade is not available, Major noted.

“Government has taken a wait-and-see approach to determine if the feds will come forward before committing to it,” he said.


Infrastructure needed

Major said most doctors in Britain use electronic records, while in Newfoundland and Labrador, likely 10 per cent do in their clinics outside the hospital setting.

“It’s a key piece of infrastructure,” he said, comparing its importance to that of medical equipment.

“Information gives you management ability.”

He said a universal electronic records system would help doctors determine the health of the population, predict future needs, ensure that people who need tests are going for regular blood work and make it easier to avoid drug interactions.

It would also ease the transition of patients from one doctor to another and help detect double doctoring.

The reports of test results would also be more immediate. Major said most doctors currently receive results by courier.

He said doctors aren’t looking for the government to foot the entire bill. He pegs the setup fee at $15,000 to $20,000 per doctor.

“It’s long overdue from the point of view of the province for the best care for our patients,” he said.

Geographic location: Britain, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Robert G Hart
    May 29, 2015 - 20:49

    I am a staunch advocate of computer based information systems. I began my career in computers 53 years ago. Dr. Major should be congratulated for his forward thinking in this vital aspect of medical care. We are ed ft he people who will benefit from his efforts.

  • mary
    October 17, 2011 - 21:36

    My family doc is already set up with computer/online access tor test results - however, "the Dr. will not check results on the computer during appointments" and "patients are asked to notify office if appointment is for test results". This is to give them time to put hard copy into file and I'm told to wait a few weeks after any test before making an app. So, from my experience, this online records thing is useless. It is just another layer of work and with the lack of good online security - a way for my files/the drs. files to be hacked into.

  • stanley
    October 16, 2011 - 10:57

    For goodness sakes, does tax payer money have to do everything for these doctors? Clinics are now set up as private corporations and make healthy profits. Take the cost from your bottom line. Stop looking to the taxpayers.

  • expat
    October 16, 2011 - 05:04

    I can't agree more with Stephen. No information system- you are in dark age. Imagine your home without the internet. doctors without excess to the patient chart, online x rays and lab test? Dark age indeed.

  • colleen w
    October 15, 2011 - 15:25

    So true, and long over due.. Some day someone will look at the evidence base..

  • J
    October 15, 2011 - 14:14

    You can actually get bloodwork before it is couriered out using Eastern Health's Meditech. The only problem with that is it is an ancient program that is a hassle to use. I really wish more offices would use email to communicate. Half the offices I call don't have answering machines or are a huge annoyance to get a hold of. I also hate faxes and I know some offices don't check their machines often. I cannot even imagine how some offices are still using a black book for appointments.

  • Phoebe Tilley
    October 15, 2011 - 10:40

    As lopng as Kennedy is Health Minister dont expect much to happen. Remember Danny hand picked and trained Jerome...and the my way or no way attitude is alive and well.

  • jim
    October 15, 2011 - 10:40

    Good idea. Long overdue. It would reduce waiting times just by having medical history all in one place. It would cut the medical fraud or double doctoring that's going on, (eg: i see you saw dr. so-and-so last week and got prescription for this drug, wait til your prescription is nearly run out before i can give you another one). The new equipment would pay for itself by reducing the time it takes to get medical records from different parts of the province, better quality of health care and cut back on the demand for more doctors and fraud as i mentioned above. Good idea DR. Major! Keep on being more vocal. Let' hope they will listen.

  • George Penney
    October 15, 2011 - 08:56

    Electronic media has become a major part of our everyday existence and now is such that the mundane use of hand written medical records is comparable to 'horse and cart' transportation from the airport. Admittedly, the conversion will be costly but the savings in drug control, in duplication, in time saved and in the portability of medical information is immeasurable. The benefits to medical personel in consultations and in sharing diaagnostic information would give patients faster and more indepth appraisals. The whole medical community- both health care providers and consumers of the service, would have their cause greatly advanced. Do it Mr. Kennedy even if it means commandeering gov. department surplusses prior to new budgets. There's probably a flurry of useless spending annually just before budget time anyway.