Nova Scotia·health hacks

What Nova Scotia can learn from another health authority's troubled IT project

The Nova Scotia Health Authority would do well to learn from mistakes made by a health authority on the other side of the country if it wants to successfully modernize the province's medical records, says health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton.

NSHA's new CEO oversaw installation of electronic records project at Vancouver Island Health Authority

Health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton says it's actually a good thing that the CEO who oversaw a problem-plagued IT project in B.C. has moved to Nova Scotia. (CCO/Pexels)

This is part of a series from CBC's Information Morning where Halifax health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton discusses her "health hacks" — ways to make your experience with the health-care system better.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority would do well to learn from mistakes made by a health authority on the other side of the country if it wants to successfully modernize the province's medical records, says health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton. 

The health authority's new CEO, Dr. Brendan Carr, will be the person overseeing how that's done when he takes over the position on Dec. 16.

His appointment comes at a time when NSHA is looking to implement a new digital record-keeping system, known as the one person, one record system.

Carr was also the person at the helm of the Vancouver Island Health Authority when it tried to implement IHealth, a problem-plagued paperless IT project that doctors said compromised patient safety.

Dr. Brendan Carr will be the next CEO and president of the Nova Scotia Health Authority. (Nova Scotia Health Authority)

But Hampton said that's why he's the best person to make sure that doesn't happen in Nova Scotia.

"I think that he really is exactly what NSHA needs right now," she told CBC's Information Morning. "He's a physician who understands physicians, but he's also a health leader who has seen up close and personal how something can go sideways even though the project itself makes so much sense."

Hampton said the IHealth project was such a challenge because physicians weren't part of the planning process from early on. 

"They launched what anywhere else you would describe as a mutiny," she said. "They said, 'We're not using this anymore. We weren't part of the plan. We weren't part of the design. We refuse to use it.'

"They didn't trust it, and when that trust is broken, it is really, really hard to get that trust back."

Health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton says the Nova Scotia Health Authority needs to involve physicians in the project from the very beginning. (Robert Short/CBC)

Hampton said Carr will have his work cut out for him. He takes over at a time when there's a great deal of distrust among physicians toward the health authority, she said.

"He's coming to an organization that already has an issue that needs to be attended to, so job one is to get those docs engaged, on board and assured that when the big, new health IT system is implemented, it will make their work easier and it will make health patient care better," she said.

Hampton said it's imperative that health authorities find a way to modernize records so doctors no longer rely on fax machines and paper copies.

But bringing in any new system comes with some degree of frustration, she said.

"At the end of the day, make sure that everybody sees what's in it for them," said Hampton. "Physicians are human like the rest of us. They have to see how this investment in huge change is going to make their work better."

The new head of the Nova Scotia Health Authority oversaw a large scale project in B.C. that didn't work out so well. On Healthcare Hacks, Mary Jane Hampton says that's actually good new for us. 8:25

READ MORE FROM OUR HEALTH HACK SERIES

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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