A motivational quote serves as the backdrop as medical information specialist Shannon Cragg demonstrates the use of the iHealth system at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

Island Health CEO says suspending iHealth not the solution

Dr. Brendan Carr acknowledges issues, says adding resources and working with doctors is the best way to ensure patient safety

The head of Island Health is fully aware of the issues at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and determined to see them resolved.

He’s just doesn’t think temporarily suspending use of the controversial iHealth paperless record-keeping system is the right way to go about that.

In the wake of a non-confidence vote in the system delivered Wednesday by Nanaimo’s medical staff association, Dr. Brendan Carr said the resolution lies in giving staff the resources they need while working together to find solutions.

“It’s not that we don’t agree there are real concerns,” he said. “We don’t think what the doctors are proposing will fix that.”

Carr said a wide range of evidence supports the principle that electronic systems are safer for patients than paper systems. Further research shows that hybrid systems are even worse. That is why Island Health is determined to make iHealth work.

A thorough review by a group of Island Health medical professionals conducted at the request of Nanaimo doctors found iHealth to be working as designed. Carr is not sure why the anecdotal experiences of many doctors does not reflect those findings. He said the additional pressures created by the iHealth learning curve may have revealed flaws in existing resources, structures and processes at NRGH.

“We need to understand it better. We plan to do that working with our physicians. They will largely be developing the plan of action,” he said. “Some of the issues have arisen because of iHealth, but iHealth isn’t the cause.”

Carr acknowledged that implementation has reduced the amount of patients some doctors can see in a fixed period of time. While they have been able to avoid cancelled surgeries, some disciplines involving complex medications have seen a reduction of up to 30 per cent.

Island Health has ordered immediate steps to be taken to address staff fatigue and mistrust of the system. The primary goal is to pinpoint the biggest areas of concern, identify potential solutions and provide the resources needed to address them. Boosting staffing levels is one option under consideration.

He said he is not opposed to bringing a third party in to review the situation, but thinks the situation can be addressed more effectively in-house. He disagreed with the suggestion pride is getting in the way of a solution, saying this is not Island Health versus Nanaimo doctors; it’s about one team working toward a common goal.

“I’m not sure where that is coming from. If anything is driving us it is our passion to do the best we can for our patients,” he said. “Working together is going to be more fruitful.”

Carr said everyone involved always knew this would be a difficult process and it’s just a matter of overcoming the obstacles. Less-capable staffs than Nanaimo’s have made similar transitions and that gives him faith that will also happen here.

“I am absolutely confident. My confidence comes from my confidence in the staff at Nanaimo.

“(The public) should know that for everybody working at Island Health, patient safety is our primary concern.”

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