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Glen Abernethy – Electronic Medical Records

Glen Abernethy - Official PortraitMr. Speaker, we are transforming the way we use technology to deliver health care to our residents.  People all over the world use secure, accessible technology for banking or to connect with their friends and family.  Now we can use it to improve access to health services and provide better care to our residents.

We are moving from paper records to digital charts to create electronic medical records, often referred to as an EMR.  This is an electronic version of a paper chart that contains a patient’s medical history and primary care information.  It will be implemented over the next several years and will be used Territory-wide.

Paper records in clinics and community health centers present many challenges to our healthcare providers, such as not having access to their patient’s important medical information to provide safe and effective treatment.  This is especially true if the patient has moved from community to community.

Electronic medical records will improve patient care and safety. Information is typed, making it much easier to read than handwritten paper charts. This helps to reduce misinterpretation of clinical information such as medication and dosage.

Mr. Speaker, the new electronic system will better protect patient information.  Unlike in a paper file, health care providers only have access to the types of information they need to treat the patient.

Rigorous quality assurance processes are in place to protect patient confidentiality, including password protection and a daily audit function.  The EMR has other uses.  It can provide reminders, for example flagging for a doctor or nurse when a patient needs a critical test to manage a chronic disease, and it can allow a team of health care workers to provide appropriate care.  This will reduce duplicate lab tests and reduce the risk of allergy or drug interactions.

Dr. Ewan Affleck of the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority has been a champion of electronic medical records, and was recently awarded the Order of Canada for his commitment to improving health care services in Northern communities.  He calls the EMR “a patient-centered charting tool that will promote the quality of care of each resident of the Northwest Territories.”

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the Main Estimates includes more than two million dollars to put in place the foundation that will allow us to roll out the EMR, including bringing more health and social services authorities into the government’s shared technology service centre.  We will provide better and safer patient care by supporting a team of authorized health care providers at different locations to care for the patient and increase the security of medical information.

The EMR roll out will continue in the coming fiscal year with implementation in the Hay River, Stanton, Fort Smith and Sahtu health and social services authorities.  The following year the remaining sites will be implemented, including Beaufort-Delta, Dehcho, and Tlicho.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased with the progress in moving this important initiative forward, and I encourage all Members and residents to visit the website betterhealthtogether.ca to learn more about the advantages of moving to a digital system.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.