iPhone and new technology enables health providers to access key life-saving information
BLACK DIAMOND, AB, Oct. 3 /CNW/ – When Foothills Regional Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Mike Anderson recently arrived at the scene of a car accident and found a person unconscious, he assessed the patient’s condition and realizing he had little patient information, activated an iPhone to obtain necessary health data on the person’s allergies and current medications.
Since April, the Calgary Rural Primary Care Network (PCN) has conducted a pilot project using iPhones and unique software to provide secure access to patient data to physicians and other health providers outside of health facilities.
At the Foothills Family Medical Centre, Dr. Tim Dowdall and the nine other family physicians volunteered to pilot and manage the iPhone initiative funded by the Primary Care Network. The iPhones have been modified to increase security of patient data with protocols that exceed those of banking machines and other secure networks. Also, even if an iPhone is lost or misplaced
somewhere, no patient information resides in the phone. As well, a Patient Impact Assessment, a standard security review done by the Primary Care Network when new health technology was introduced, validates the company’s security safeguards.
The iPhones are linked with a state of the art software program that allows physicians and other designated health providers to pull information from the local electronic medical records in the Foothills Clinic to the point of care.
“The iPhone and support software,” says Dowdall, “improves the quality of care and access to necessary patient information for those of us who are working outside of our clinics and need data to make a clinical decision.” This is the kind of information sharing required to serve patients living in a
community with increasingly complex health issues.
Theresia Berry, a Paramedic with Foothills Regional Emergency Services in Black Diamond, south of Calgary, believes the iPhone has become an invaluable tool for accessing necessary patient data. “Often before we even arrive at the scene, we can use the iPhone, find out the patient’s past medical history, and just have a better idea of what we’re dealing with so we’re prepared,” she says.
They might receive a call because a person is in distress, but it could be one health condition or several medical issues. Sometimes even when they arrive at the scene, the person or family members may not be aware or under too much stress to explain clearly the medications and health conditions of the person affected.
“The iPhone gives us immediate and accurate clarification of the person’s health status,” she explains. Dr. Dowdall gives a unique example of taking the health iPhone and going
on vacation in Banff, Alberta. He received a call from his clinic about a patient and unlike in the past, when a non-urgent decision would be deferred until his return, he activated the iPhone, looked at the patient data, and made a decision.
This information sharing project and the use of technology supports the type of collaborative practice required among health professionals to coordinate and improve medical care. Homecare nurses in their offices can currently use the solution in linking patient electronic data from the Foothills Clinic. There are huge benefits in accessing information when visiting clients’ homes. Frequently people with complex health needs are confused regarding their conditions and various drugs and treatments that are being employed. Having one shared “source of truth” in the electronic record is extremely beneficial to get the care team on the same page.
Berry does admit there is one challenge in sometimes using the iPhone, especially in a more rural location. Cell phone reception is occasionally not good. However, Berry says she and her partner, EMT Mike Anderson, are aware of those locations and are usually able to obtain the necessary patient data before entering those areas.
Response to date from all physicians involved in the iPhone pilot project has been positive, says Dowdall. What makes the technology unique is that physicians can input into the software program the level of patient information other health providers require to do their jobs while restricting
access to any other information. This collaboration, and providing iPhone access to patient medical records, is likely a first in Canada and represents a significant step forward in having all health professionals working as a team to provide better health care to patients in Alberta.
Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are a made-in-Alberta approach to improve the delivery of primary care. A Primary Care Network is formed when a group of physicians and Alberta Health Services agree to work together to provide enhanced primary care services. In addition to physicians, other health professionals are key partners in delivering PCN services. Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta Medical Association and Alberta Health Services are partners in the development of Primary Care Networks.