By IAN ROSS
Already lionized by the Romanow Royal Commission as Canada’s “best kept secret” in community-based health care delivery, Sault Ste. Marie’s Group Health Centre (GHC) intends to market their high-tech health wares internationally.
The Willow Avenue clinic is expanding its information technology (IT) base with a new partnership and a suite of new electronic record-keeping products and services now under various stages of development.
The groundbreaking began in early February on the Health Care Communications and Technology Centre, a 12,750-square-foot addition and partnership between the GHC and the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre.
The new addition will house the Innovation Centre’s GIS component and will share space with the GHC’s IT department to develop future software applications.
The $2.3 million structure, scheduled for completion in late summer, will include the Group Health Centre’s transcription and communication services, including an electronic appointment booking service they plan to market internationally, initially targeting northern Michigan.
Greg Punch, GHC’s director of corporate development, says the centre has received national recognition for their chronic disease management programs, that if patients have a better understanding of their condition, they can manage their disease better and get better outcomes.
Now GHC is “taking it to the next step” through e-medicine records.
Under the label of MedCura, the centre is marketing more than 40 years of knowledge and expertise developed around the GHC’s primary care model.
Now health care providers can access the technology, management consulting and training developed by the GHC.
“We’ve taken our core competencies and decided we can market them,” says Punch. “We certainly can be a catalyst for health-care delivery in Northern Ontario.”
Punch says both partners are developing a business model to sell the appointment services to other clinics, physicians’ offices and hospitals.
It allows clinics like the GHC to book multiple appointments, allowing incoming travellers to coordinate all their appointments and procedures for one visit.
The GHC is currently doing all outpatient booking for the Algoma Health Unit and the Sault Area Hospitals.
They are also doing a feasibility study on voice recognition (voice-to-text) for their transcription system and are investigating the use of handheld wireless technologies and videoconferencing to provide more interactive health care, for example linking elderly patients with their out-of-town children during physician appointments.
Punch is especially excited about their Patient Portals technology, a Web-based suite of products allowing patients to monitor their vascular problems via the Internet.
Though still working on the model, it will allow patients to seek out disease-specific health-care information, access to chat rooms, or charting their vital signs from home as part of an electronic chart.
Patients wouldn’t necessarily have complete access to their medical records, but would be able to find resources online. GHC received $744,000 from the Ministry of Health in January to develop the technology.