June 23, 2020 – HAMILTON, ON – The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for strong collaboration and clear communication among healthcare providers, particularly when it comes to vulnerable older adults. A unique partnership is creating a digital link between hospital and long-term care (LTC) homes to ensure clear, accurate information flows quickly and easily between the two healthcare providers when transferring patients, to reduce the potential for delays or errors in care. The intent is to improve health outcomes for older adults transferred between hospital and long-term care.
For hospital patients going to a LTC home, this means their hospital team will be able to send medical information to their LTC team – directly from the hospital system to the LTC home. The same will be true in reverse for residents of a LTC home going into hospital.
This fast, bi-directional exchange of medical information will bring many benefits, in terms of speed and accuracy of information. This is also important now more than ever as we are faced with the challenges of a pandemic. COVID-19 has struck many residents of Ontario’s long-term care homes, prompting partnerships with hospitals to provide assistance and making the direct and rapid exchange of information between hospitals and LTC homes even more important to enable patient-centred care. While this initial project will focus on local Hamilton healthcare providers, the intent is to develop a successful digital tool to support hospital/LTC transitions across the province to improve the health outcomes of LTC residents. A large-scale improvement of this kind will be of interest to the recently announced independent commission into Ontario’s long-term care system.
St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton (SJHH) and St. Joseph’s Villa in Dundas are the hospital/LTC partners in the project. Both already partner under St. Joseph’s Health System (SJHS), a leader in integrated care, creating this unique opportunity to test a cooperative pilot project.
The third partner is Canadian based PointClickCare, the leading cloud-based technology partner to North America’s LTC industry. They are providing the solution, known as Harmony, to make this integration possible.
The project is funded in part by the CAN Health Network, as an innovative Canadian technology project developing solutions to address important challenges in our healthcare system. The CAN Health Network was created in July 2019, as a result of a Federal Government investment totaling $7 million, of which the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) each contributed $3.5 million. This investment established the Network in Ontario and the West, with expansion to the East, Quebec and the North to come.
Healthcare systems across Ontario often operate under different digital health record systems. For patients transferred between these healthcare institutions, it can result in paper-based transfer of information, written notes and potential delays in relaying and taking action on important medical information. Having an integrated care coordination platform can reduce the potential for medication errors, difficulties in obtaining an accurate diagnosis, delays in treatment and care, and readmissions to hospital.
The purpose of the pilot project is to connect various hospital health information systems with long-term care homes to enable better information sharing to support care coordination and delivery. Following the pilot, the hope is to expand the solution to other healthcare providers across the province and Canada. Not only will this help with the transfer of COVID-19 patients from LTC to hospital, but it will also enable broader goals around integrated care and information sharing, which are fundamental to the success of the newly created Ontario Health Teams. Additionally, this could also help reduce both the number of unnecessary emergency transfers and the time that residents may be waiting for information and treatment.
A multi-disciplinary team from across SJHS will work with PointClickCare, which provides the cloud-based digital health information system used at St. Joseph’s Villa, to enable the secure two-way exchange of patient data with Dovetale (Epic), the hospital information system used at SJHH.
Once the benefits of the project are evaluated, the team hopes to expand the initiative to the other 13 LTC homes in Hamilton that use PointClickCare’s cloud-based platform, and then to many more long-term and acute care facilities across the country.
If the pilot is successful, additional hospitals and LTC homes in the CAN Health Network will be able to procure PointClickCare. This will not only strengthen healthcare across the nation but will also contribute to the growth of PointClickCare and additional job creation in Canada.