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Pemberton Medical Clinic pioneers electronic records

New Chronic Disease Registry aims at reducing acute illness

"We can help shape how other health service providers manage their information."

— Patti Rodger Kirkpatrick, project manager

The four-doctor Pemberton Medical Clinic is the first in the Sea to Sky corridor to begin replacing paper medical files with more efficient digital versions. This change was made possible under a Primary Health Care Transition Fund grant. The fund was put in place to improve health care delivery from frontline workers such as family doctors.

Project manager Patti Rodgers Kirkpatrick is enthusiastic about the potential of the new electronic medical record system. Initial reports to the Vancouver Coast Health Authority support this enthusiasm.

"We have been able to prove that the quality of the care we are delivering here is higher than average," says Kirkpatrick.

Patients like the new system and so do the doctors. Within a week of the project starting physicians were writing prescriptions from their desktop computers and inputting patient notes.

By going digital, all of a patient’s information is readily available to a doctor, from prescription and treatment history to allergy warnings.

"Doctors handwriting is sometime questionable," says Dr. Rebecca Lindley, a physician at the clinic. "If it’s not mine I may not be as good at interpreting the contents. This way it’s legible and it’s all there."

In addition to improving information access, the system has allowed the clinic to develop a Chronic Disease Registry. The registry will allow physicians to track patients with illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and asthma to ensure the patient has the best quality of care and access to current information about advances in the management of their disease. Additionally, support services and other referrals can quickly be cross-referenced, creating an integrated package of patient services; a digital approach to team health care management.

"What we’re doing is providing better care by not letting people become acute," says Kirkpatrick, stressing that the registry will not be invasive.

And patients in good health will have a harder time avoiding annual physicals thanks to a handy recall feature in the software, which notifies doctors of necessary patient appointments.

Dr. Lindley sites the software as being another exciting factor of the system. Unlike other systems that use proprietary software, the Pemberton clinic has opted to use OSCAR, an open programming system. This means that their software can be purchased from a variety of sources, thus reducing the cost of the system.

However, when it comes to patient confidentiality, the system is a closed one.

"Only clinic physicians will have access to patient charts," stresses Dr.Lindley.

As one of the first medical offices in the province to employ the new system, the clinic will be able to shape policy and protocol, such as the delivery of information.

"We are looking at having lab results being directly downloaded to our system and then placed in charts," says Kirkpatrick. "We can help shape how other health service providers manage their information."

There’s still one thing Kirkpatrick would like to see added to the project: a nurse.

"We’ve been trying to hire a nurse to work with our chronic care patients and to provide outreach services to the outlying reserves along the Lillooet Lake. Right now our doctors do it once a week," says Kirkpatrick.