On June 1 St. Francis Memorial Hospital (SFMH) went live with its new health information system (“EPIC”). Click HERE for more information. However, according to local doctor Ray Dawes, it has not gone according to plan and he has gone public with his concerns.
The June 26 issue of the Valley Gazette contained a strongly worded letter by Dr. Dawes complaining that the “system has not gone smoothly either here in Barry’s Bay or any of the five hospitals in Eastern Ontario that are using it.” This he says has caused him to advise his patients that if they have to go to the ER at SFMH “find out what the wait time is and consider whether a trip to another hospital in Pembroke or Bancroft which is not using this new system would be sensible.” Although noting that “the jury is out as to whether this change will turn out to be a benefit or a mistake,” he concluded his letter by noting that “a new small hospital could have been built with the money spent on it” and then issuing a stark warning by saying “much more could be written about other concerns such as the loss of experienced staff, the possibility of privacy breaches, and computer hacking with demands for ransom payments.”
The Current reached out to the CEO of SFMH, Randy Penney, as well as Dr. Jack Kitts, President and CEO at The Ottawa Hospital, for a response to Dr. Dawes’ criticisms. Penney told The Current that Dr. Dawes “is entitled to his opinion.” He went on to congratulate the staff, physicians and Board for the work that they have completed implementing the new electronic health record. “This has been a major undertaking and has demonstrated once again that our small, rural hospital can partner with world class organizations like The Ottawa Hospital and the Ottawa Heart Institute.” He shared with The Current what he said was one of the many positive stories that have been told since EPIC started on June 1. This involved a local retired RN whose husband is in the cancer program and who has been trying for years to gain access to his treatment plans, his health vitals and to be an active participant in the care that he has and will be receiving. Requests in the past were met with no success. Now, with EPIC, he has MyChart and he and his wife have instant access to his health record. “This is the future of healthcare.” Penney points out that across the sites implementing EPIC, 18,400 patients have now signed up for MyChart in just three weeks.
The Ottawa Hospital replied saying:
“Digital health information systems are foundational to 21st-century health care. However, getting there is difficult as it requires our health-care professionals to adapt to a new digital system that standardizes how we care for our patients. We knew from those who have gone before us that the transition would be difficult. We also knew that once we adapted: our patients would become active partners in their care, because they have immediate access to their own health record; health-care professionals will provide safer care with better health outcomes, because they have immediate access to vital health information; and we will create better health-care systems, because decisions will be informed by better data, leading to greater accountability. Because of digital technology, our hospitals will provide safer, more effective care for our patients.”
The Current also reached out to Dr. Dawes requesting further comment including whether he had discussed his concerns with SFMH management before going public but at the time of publication had not received a response.
Shown at top: Kim Stewart, Megan Mask, Jose Pinto and Shayna Perry demonstrate some of the equipment that replaced paper charts on June 1st to allow for improved coordination of care across multiple sites. (Photo Pappin Communications)