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New hospital info system will transform delivery of health-care services in Niagara

Posted Jul 29th, 2022

This is an opinion column by Niagara Health President and Chief Executive Officer, Lynn Guerriero published in the St. Catharines StandardNiagara Falls Review, Welland Tribune and NiagaraThisWeek.

Technology has an incredible ability to impact our lives.

It allows us to easily manage our personal finances, order groceries from down the street and stay in touch with family and friends from around the world. Advances in technology are transforming the way we work and deliver health care.

Niagara Health is embarking on a $150-million digital transformation as we build a modern hospital information system (HIS) that will help us better serve patients. The HIS will make it easier for both patients and health-care providers to access health records, enhance the quality and safety of patient care and create a more connected and collaborative health system in Niagara.

Over the next two years, we are teaming up with Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre to build and implement the new HIS. The system will eliminate the need for paper patient charts and will provide secure access to a patient’s up-to-date medical history for providers at Hotel Dieu Shaver and all Niagara Health hospital sites.

Access to one electronic medical record will provide our health-care professionals with faster access to the information they require to make important health-care decisions. This more efficient system will save time for our clinicians, which means more meaningful time spent with patients. Enhanced information sharing will also support patients to be more involved in their care, and will reduce the need for patients to repeat their story multiple times as they interact with different members of the care team.

A patient’s health record holds a lifetime of medical history and information needed to safely diagnose and prescribe a course of treatment. At everyone’s fingertips will be records of the medications a patient is taking, their allergies, results from previous diagnostic tests, and other important details of their health history. As an example, the HIS will enhance the medication safety practices we currently have in place by electronically alerting our clinicians about interactions between medications, safe doses, patient allergies and more.

The HIS will provide clinicians with new opportunities to collect and analyze data, increasingly driving evidence-based decision making and standardization of care across our hospital sites. Additionally, this new data will support research and innovation programs at Niagara Health.

From a patient perspective, this new technology will build on digital tools and services already available at Niagara Health. Today, patients can use our mobile app, access virtual urgent care and download diagnostic records online. The new HIS will expand and make these services even easier to access, while automatically updating health records in real time. Soon, all patients will be able to register and check in for appointments at the hospital from any mobile device.

Staff currently working at Niagara Health eagerly await the technology updates the HIS will bring. It will take a team effort with patient partners and nearly 100 members of our team helping to build the system to ensure it best meets the unique needs of Niagara Health’s and Hotel Dieu Shaver’s patients, families, staff, physicians and the community as a whole.

We all know that Canada is experiencing a serious shortage of health-care workers. Medical professionals I speak with want to work in the best facilities, with the best technology and the best teams. It is already clear our modern HIS will help us to attract and retain the best and brightest staff and physicians.

Our longer term planning sees the information system being accessible to an increasing number of our health-care partners in Niagara, consistent with our efforts to work more collaboratively together to enhance patient care and outcomes.

Niagara Health System