Only 240 doctors signed up for e-records system so far

The New Brunswick Medical Society has missed its goal of having 500 doctors signed up for the province's new electronic medical records system by more than half, officials confirmed on Tuesday.

New Brunswick Medical Society's original goal was to have 500 doctors join by Dec. 31

Harry Forestell talks with Anthony Knight, the CEO of the New Brunswick Medical Society, about e-health care falling short. 4:59

Only 240 doctors have signed up for the province's new electronic medical records system to date, New Brunswick Medical Society officials announced on Tuesday.

The original goal was to have 500 of the province's 1,600 doctors signed up by Dec. 31.

But officials now realize only 950 doctors qualify under the provincial government's criteria, said CEO Anthony Knight.

Doctors now have until March 31 to sign up before subsidies expire, he said. If they don't sign up before then, they will have to pay the full amount themselves.

The system, called Velante, costs about $24,000 per doctor.

The provincial government will cover about $4,000 of that, while doctors have to pay $8,000 and the federal government's arm's-length agency, Canada Health Infoway, picks up the rest of the tab.

Knight pointed the finger at the government for declaring more than 600 doctors ineligible for the society's electronic medical record system.

New Brunswick Medical Society CEO Anthony Knight and president Lynn Hansen provided an update on the new e-record system on Tuesday. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)
One example of ineligible doctors that "surprised" the organization was the 100 psychiatrists the government wants to continue using an app purchased a decade ago, he said.

Department of Health spokesperson Tracey Burkhardt confirmed psychiatrists were not approved for the new electronic medical record system (EMR). "They use a system to which Mental Health and Social Development are attached and it is valuable to them to see their patients’ other interactions with the system," she stated in an email.

Similarly, the government declined anesthesiologists who work in operating rooms and must document their activities in the hospital system, which is part of the EMR, as well as other specialists, such as oncologists and emergency room doctors, whose work is completely hospital-based, Burkhardt said.

The medical society has asked the provincial government to assist doctors with existing electronic systems that don't "talk to" the new system make the switch, said Knight.

"We have made proposals to government that they support a transition fund for doctors who have already acquired an EMR and we're waiting and hoping that perhaps government will see the value in that," he said.

On Monday, a Fredericton doctor told CBC News the new system has created an uneven playing field.

Dr. Doug Varty said he was one of about 60 doctors who adopted electronic records before the new system was introduced. He contends he is out tens of thousands of dollars because the New Brunswick Medical Society went with a program that no one was using and that he won't be able to link to the provincial system.

But the Department of Health spokesperson says doctors can connect to the province's electronic medical records system via the internet for information such as blood tests and diagnostic imaging reports regardless of the EMR they choose.

The value of the provincial system is that it can be done seamlessly and allows doctors to view the information in context with their own patient history information and have it all in the same place, Burkhardt said.

Health Minister Ted Flemming has stressed his department has had no role in this new phase for doctors' offices.

The society and a private information technology company set up a company called Velante to run the new system.

Two reviews of an earlier phase — the component for hospitals and the health department — found unauthorized extra spending and conflicts of interests among consultants working on it.