Emergency room doctors at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital stopped directly inputting information into the new iHealth system about two weeks ago. Instead

Emergency room doctors at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital stopped directly inputting information into the new iHealth system about two weeks ago. Instead

Calls mount for review of iHealth paperless record-keeping system

Nanaimo health care providers call for suspension as issues persist three months into implementation scheduled to go Vancouver Island-wide

A growing number of health professionals are asking for a sober second look at the new iHealth electronic record-keeping system being test-driven in Nanaimo for future implementation across Vancouver Island.

On the record, doctors and nurses are saying very little about the $178 million system that has now been in place for nearly three months and marks a fundamental change in the way diagnoses and treatments are recorded.

But off the record, the angst continues. More than 100 health care providers — mainly doctors — have signed a petition requesting use of the system be suspended until its issues are addressed. Department heads are scheduled to plead their case to Island Health’s medical advisory committee — which includes physicians from other Island hospitals — June 21. And some observers are suggesting an independent third party be brought in to do a review because management has too much invested in the system to properly judge its efficacy.

Critics have primarily focused on how iHealth has reduced the pace of treatment in Nanaimo Regional General Hospital’s emergency and intensive care units and turned caregivers into highly-paid data entry clerks. Island Health said it was unable to respond to reports the number of patients doctors are seeing per hour in the Island’s busiest emergency room has dropped by one-third to one-half.

Some critics also suggest the system is resulting in missing or misplaced orders putting patient health at risk. And another concern has recently emerged; some doctors don’t trust the system to properly record their orders and provide a proper paper trail to protect them in the wake of something going wrong.

In previous interviews, officials said the health authority remains committed to the system, adding it is working as planned and catching errors that would have previously slipped through. Any errors that may have occurred under the new system are being blamed on improper use of the program.

In response to an interview request for this article, followed by a series of specific emailed questions about the concerns detailed above, they declined to respond directly.

Instead they issued the following statement.

“We are continuing to work collaboratively with our physician colleagues and clinical staff on refining the new iHealth tools and processes. When fully implemented, the aim of iHealth will be to improve the quality and safety of care offered to our patients.

“We are continuing to meet with provider groups as we continue to implement IHealth. This is a huge and complex  project. There will continue to be learning as we implement this new system.  As the system and our processes continue to be modified daily based on input from staff and  physicians partners, we are unable to provide data at this time.”

Nanaimo doctors met earlier this month to discuss the issue. Nanaimo Division of Family Practice board chairwoman Dr. Melissa Oberholster was cautious in describing what they concluded. She said the group will be issuing a position statement in the near future, but acknowledged concern is widespread among its membership, which includes a majority of family and hospital physicians in the Nanaimo area.

“There’s definitely far more of an unanimous feeling than I initially thought,” she said. “It’s not just a single group, or specific individuals. Nothing has affected all of our members like this. There are people that we care about in the hospital that deserve us to be advocates for them.”

Meanwhile, B.C. Nurses Union Pacific Rim chairwoman Rachel Kimler was similarly restrained in her comments, but acknowledged  Island Health’s public statements do not match what the union is hearing from its members.

“Nurses still continue to raise concerns about patient safety and workload,”  Kimler said. “Island Health does seem to be motivated, but the solutions are not coming as fast as doctors and nurses would like. People don’t trust the system and we are going on 10 or 12 weeks now.”

As the public faces of their professions locally, Oberholster and Kimler are among the few health care professionals speaking publicly on this issue. When asked, each acknowledged they have peers who say they are reluctant to speak out.

Privately, some caregivers have suggested to Black Press that nurses are employees of Island Health and are afraid of job-related repercussions. Doctors, meanwhile, are concerned they will lose hospital privileges.

Neither Dr. Anthony Booth, acting president of the Nanaimo Medical Association, nor Dr. Drew Digney, emergency and trauma site chief for Nanaimo, responded to requests for interviews.

Oberholster said Nanaimo doctors are very conscious of their role as a template for Vancouver Island and perhaps for health regions across the province. They want to make sure Island Health gets it right.

She is also concerned about the role iHealth can — and is — playing in the attraction and retention of physicians.

“In some cases, it’s minor, sometimes it is in the major folder,” she said. “IHealth puts a magnifying glass on the situation.”

Kimler said the nurses remain in support of the concept of electronic records, they just haven’t been convinced that this system is ready.

“We’re struggling with the implementation. We want to work with VIHA to address the issues. All parties have patient care first in mind. We’ll get there. Hopefully it will be a linear progression, not having to take a step back.”

Follow me on Twitter @JohnMcKinleyBP

Just Posted

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of June 6-12. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
New COVID-19 cases up on Island, but health officials say trends going right way

There were 22 new COVID-19 cases in Greater Victoria last week after just four the week before

Emergency health services treated a person after they were blocking traffic at the intersection of Fort and Douglas Streets on June 17. (Evert Lindquist/ News Staff)
Victoria intersection traffic returns to normal after protester blocked roadway

A person in a motorized wheelchair was blocking the intersection at Fort and Douglas Streets

Eric White’s roadside farm stand in Metchosin sits stocked with produce. (Photo courtesy of Eric White)
Fledgling Metchosin farmer frustrated by thefts from stand

Eric White said every dollar made at the roadside helps sustain his farm

Saanich police took a suspect into custody after a store employee on Cedar Hill Cross Road was assaulted Wednesday afternoon. (Black Press Media file photo)
Employee assaulted at Saanich store after asking suspected shoplifters to leave

June 16 incident saw worker taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

Most Read