Doctor urges government to make online information system a priority

Barb Sweet
Published on October 15, 2011
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.