British Columbia

Nanaimo hospital doctors speak out against electronic health record glitches

Doctors at the hospital in Nanaimo are speaking out over issues with a new paperless health record system scheduled to expand to other Vancouver Island hospitals.

Island Health says partial system review hasn't revealed any deficiencies

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is the first hospital on Vancouver Island to move to a paperless system. (Island Health)

Doctors at Nanaimo Regional Hospital say a new paperless health record system isn't getting any easier to use.

They say the system is cumbersome, prone to inputting errors, and has led to problems with medication orders. 

"There continue to be reports daily of problems that are identified," said Dr. David Forrest, president of the Medical Staff Association at the hospital.

New workstations on wheels at the Nanaimo hospital allow doctors and nurses to put patient information directly into an electronic health record. (Island Health)

The doctors at the hospital have been raising their concerns about the new system since it was first installed earlier this year

Forrest said the doctors at the hospital support going paperless, but they're worried about patient safety. 

He said doctors in Nanaimo say they have tried to work with Island Health to fix the glitches, asking for part of the system to be pulled until they were confident patient medication orders were being handled correctly.

"We are now asking that the whole system undergo a thorough, immediate expert, external and independent review," said Forrest.

Rocky start

The Vancouver Island Health Authority admits the major technological transformation has had a rocky start. But it maintains patient safety has not been jeopardized during the transition, and says the system will improve care.

"We very much accept and apologize to the physicians in Nanaimo who have felt that they have been the front end on the icebreaker as we sort this out," said VIHA deputy chief medical officer Dr. Martin Wale.

"We are absolutely concerned about the concerns the physicians have raised and are looking into those on an individual basis."

Wale said Island Health did review the patient medication orders but didn't find any inaccuracies. Instead, VIHA suspects the issue may have more to do with doctors' unfamiliarity with the system. 

But Forrest disagrees.

"It's not a matter of our needing to learn the system better, I think the problem is with the system," he said. 

Forrest said doctors may turn to a dispute resolution process in their contract with the province to make sure the problems are dealt with.

With files from Megan Thomas