Consumer e-health portal rolls out

Canadians may create, store and manage their health information on a new, secure portal for consumers, a technology company says.

Canadians will be able to create, store and manage their health information on a new, secure portal for consumers, a technology company says.

Telus health space will provide patients and their families with access to their health information in an encrypted online environment, the company and a Toronto hospital said Monday.

The idea is to use Telus health space and its e-health record system, called My Chart, to securely move health information from home, the clinic, hospital or elsewhere to the consumer's fingertips.

"If a doctor asks me when my last [tetanus] shots was, I want to be able to pull up My Chart record, go to the tab that has the immunization record, download that to my mobile, go bop, bop, bop, [press a few keys, and] that's the date," said Sam Marafioti, the chief information officer at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, which is involved in the project.

Provincial governments have been working on electronic-health record systems, but Canada lags behind other countries in this area, said Canada Health Infoway, a federally funded non-profit organization that works with all levels of government and health-care providers to expand the use of electronic health records.

Marafioti said Sunnybrook was eager to get going on a system and welcomed the involvement of Telus Health Solutions.

Consumers will be able to upload health information from their doctor's office and hospitals such as Sunnybrook that have similar electronic medical record systems.

Data from consumer medical devices such as blood pressure monitors and glucometers for measuring blood sugar levels, weight scales, calorie counters and fitness applications that come with a USB connection can also be uploaded into the health space record, Zak Bhamani, director of consumer health at Telus Health Solutions, said in an interview.

Health-care professionals can access patients' profiles to see allergy information, graphs of blood pressure readings to identify trigger points and medication history, Bhamani said.

Building network  

Telus health space is powered by Microsoft Health Vault, which makes it easy for software developers at hospitals to use and build on, Marafioti told reporters.

Down the road, such systems could link to records at family doctor's offices, pharmacies, blood work laboratories and hospitals.

Monday's announcement and Sunnybrooks's involvement are just a first step, Marafioti acknowledged. Next, governments and the private sector will have to build networks linking hospitals and other parts of the health-care system.

"It's the question in my mind that faces the national landscape in terms of when are we going to see fully integrated electronic health records?" Marafioti said.

The My Chart service is already available to consumers with chronic diseases such Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes or hypertension.

This early phase of the records project focuses on cardiovascular health and will run in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Telus said. The company is also working with the Canadian MedicAlert Foundation to improve responses in urgent situations.

Canada Health Infoway has certified the pre-implementation form of the platform.

The platform is similar to Google Health, which is available in the United States to both patients and partners such as hospitals and pharmacies and allows patients to import their records into the system.