Monday, May 12, 2008

Electronic Med Records Are Worth the Privacy Risk

From the Wall Street Journal Blog of November 29, 2007, 9:06 am
Poll: Electronic Med Records Are Worth the Privacy Risk
Posted by Jacob Goldstein

On the subject of electronic medical records, regular folks appear to agree with the health-wonk elite.

Yes, electronic records make it tougher to keep patients’ records private, most people said in a new poll from the WSJ Online and Harris Interactive. But the risk is worth it, because the records can also decrease errors and reduce health costs, according to a majority of respondents.

Overall, 60% of 2,153 respondents said the benefits of electronic medical records outweigh the risks; 63% said electronic records can significantly decrease the frequency of medical errors, 55% said they can significantly reduce costs, and 51% said they make it more difficult to ensure patients’ privacy.

A couple other interesting findings: 76% of respondents are confident that the doctor always “has an accurate and complete picture” of their prior medical history (we suspect a survey of docs would yield a less confident response to this one). And only 1% of respondents said they use a personal health record stored on the Internet — demonstrating that there’s plenty of room for growth in the ambitious personal-health Microsoft and Google are working on.

Health Blog Question of the Day: Do the benefits of electronic medical records outweigh the privacy risk? If so, what can be done to get more doctors to go electronic?

Balanced hospital budgets approved by South West LHIN (Ontario)

LONDON, ON, May 1 /CNW/ -
The South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) Board of Directors reviewed and approved Hospital Service Accountability Agreements (H-SAAs) for 16 hospitals yesterday for the fiscal year 2008/09 and 2009/10.

The following hospitals submitted balanced budgets for 2008/09 and 2009/10:
• Alexandra Hospital (Ingersoll)
• Alexandra Marine & General Hospital (Goderich)
• Hanover District Hospital
• Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance: Clinton Public Hospital, Seaforth Community Hospital, St. Marys Memorial Hospital, Stratford General Hospital
• Listowel Wingham Hospitals Alliance: Listowel Hospital and Wingham Hospital
• London Health Sciences Centre
• Middlesex Hospital Alliance: Four Counties Health Services (Newbury)
• South Bruce Grey Health Centre
• South Huron Hospital Association (Exeter)
• St. Joseph's Health Care, London
• St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital
• Woodstock Private Hospital

The Board extended the budget negotiation period for four hospitals:
• Grey Bruce Health Services
• Middlesex Hospital Alliance: Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital
• Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital
• Woodstock General Hospital

The review of H-SAAs at yesterday's Board meeting marks another step in an evolving process that began last fall when hospitals submitted the first draft of their annual plans. The South West LHIN will now work with the 16 hospitals to implement their annual plans and introduce a process to further assist the four hospitals that have not yet balanced their budgets.

"The completion of 16 agreements is an important milestone for our LHIN and for the communities served by our hospitals," says Tony Woolgar, chief executive officer of the South West LHIN. "We are continuing to work closely with the four hospitals that have not yet balanced their budgets and we are confident that they will be able to do so.

"The process for hospital budget development and approval this year is quite different than in the past and our hospitals have risen to the challenge, recognizing that it provides a solid foundation for system planning and performance improvement as we move forward," adds Woolgar.


The 2008-2010 Hospital Service Accountability Agreement (H-SAA) process marks the first hospital budget negotiation between Ontario's 14 LHINs and hospitals. Hospitals are required to balance their budgets under the Local Health System Integration Act, 2006. Signed by the boards of directors of both hospitals and their LHIN, H-SAAs hold hospitals accountable for operating within a balanced budget and maintaining agreed upon service levels.

Ontario's LHINs have an accountability agreement with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. For information on the South West LHIN's Ministry-LHIN Accountability Agreement, visit the "Accountability" section under "About our LHIN" at

The South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is a crown agency responsible for planning, integrating and funding more than 150 health service providers, including hospitals, long-term care homes, mental health and addictions agencies, community support services, community health centres, and the South West CCAC. Established under the Local Health System Integration Act, 2006, as one of 14 LHINs across Ontario, the South West LHIN operates an annual health care budget of $1.8 billion. The South West LHIN covers an area from Lake Erie to the Bruce Peninsula and is home to almost one million people.

No immediate cash for the Calgary Health Region says Premier Ed Stelmach

CALGARY — The urgent need for cash outlined by the Calgary Health Region is also being experienced in other Alberta cities, says Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach.

Stelmach was in Calgary on Tuesday and received a tour of the new Alberta Children's Hospital from chairman Jack Davis.

"It was in September of 2000 that then minister of Infrastructure Ed Stelmach phoned the Calgary Health Region and said the funds for the new children's hospital would be made available," said Davis.

"So we were very pleased today to be able to tour the premier and his wife around the children's hospital to see what that commitment's resulted in."

Davis has been looking for about $190 million from the province to deal with the dire problems he outlined during the last election campaign.

Calgary's three main hospitals had been struggling with seriously overcrowded emergency rooms, forcing patients to queue in hallways on stretchers.

Stelmach told reporters that he isn't making any commitments until after Health Minister Ron Liepert finishes his review of the health-care system. He said it's not just Calgary that is feeling the pinch.

"There are unique issues in every regional health authority in the province of Alberta," conceded Stelmach.

"If you go to Fort McMurray, you will hear Fort McMurray say you are extracting our resources and you're not returning enough here," he said. "If you go to Grande Prairie, it's the same issues. Every region has the same issue that we have in Calgary."

Both Liepert and Stelmach have stressed that there must be changes to get a handle on spiralling costs that have hit $13 billion. That means the province is spending a third of its budget on health care, but there are still long wait times and shortages of doctors and nurses.

"We have to find a way to make is sustainable and everybody tells us that if you are going to be increasing your budgets year by year and eventually you double it," he said. "If you double it, which department do you take out?"

Stelmach has said such a financial burden will eventually hinder the government from moving on other priority areas such as education. He said there is a reason the Capital Health Regional in Edmonton receives $110 million a year more than Calgary.

"The formula is quite complex. It looks at the socio-economic structure of the region," he explained. "There are differences in aboriginal community service and seniors. There are a whole bunch of different factors into the formula."

Canadian Press