'Long overdue' electronic records system will track vaccine data: province
New Brunswick Medical Society applauds new health record system
The New Brunswick government will spend $12.5 million over four years on a new electronic health record system meant to improve management of vaccinations, immunizations and disease outbreaks.
The system, Public Health Information Solution (PHIS), will store information related to vaccine inventory as well as immunization, communicable disease and outbreak management, said chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell.
PHIS will lead to the digitization of paper records, connect non-integrated health databases and give the Department of Health real-time tracking of the vaccine inventory.
The system is "long overdue," Russell said.
"The Department of Health will be equipped to strategically tackle immunization, which will ultimately prevent more New Brunswickers from getting sick," she said.
Dr. Serge Melanson, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said the system will measure stockpiles of vaccines and show which communities or groups aren't getting vaccinated so government can effectively target education campaigns.
Melanson said it will be particularly helpful during the influenza season. Having up-to-date records at your fingertips is of "great importance to doctors," he said.
"Any time you see a service currently being offered in a hard-copy, paper format and you evolve it into a digital platform, you are going to likely be able to provide a service at a much better and more effective rate," Melanson said during a press conference Tuesday.
Health-care providers rely on a combination of electronic and paper records, but PHIS is expected to gather them in one central system, which is modelled after Nova Scotia's system.
The system will save patients from having to keep cumbersome paper records, said Health Minister Ted Flemming, who waved a blue card he keeps in his wallet that states when he last received a tetanus shot.
"This is not the best way to do things," he said.
"There's no better way to illustrate what we're doing than going from this to technology and data."
Russell said New Brunswick's privacy commissioner has been consulted to ensure private information is protected during the implementation. That will be done in three phases that will begin in February and will take two years to complete.
She said only health-care providers and public health officials will have access to the system.