Connect Care, the new electronic health system being slowly implemented across Alberta, won’t be introduced in any other facilities until October. It has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Originally, the entire rollout was set to be done by fall 2022. Now, it’s been pushed back a year.
According to Alberta Health Services documents obtained by Global News through a Freedom of Information Request, “AHS leadership has carefully weighed the impact of COVID-19 on our health system and has made the decision to temporarily delay our upcoming launch of Waves 2 and 3 of Connect Care.
“Given the significantly increasing demands on our frontline physicians, staff and services, and the increased health risks our patients and healthcare teams are facing due to COVID-19, we do not feel it would be prudent to launch these next waves of Connect Care as originally scheduled.
“Connect Care is not being cancelled; it is postponed,” the documents stated.
Connect Care replaces all paper charting, medication records, lab requisitions and results, and patient medical histories. It will allow health-care providers a central access point to patient information, common clinical standards and best health-care practices.
Work on the new electronic system and its integration started in 2016.
The phased rollout started Nov. 3, 2019 in several Edmonton sites, including the University of Alberta Hospital, Stollery Children’s Hospital, several ambulatory clinics, Alberta precision labs, diagnostic labs and Dynalife.
Health care workers reported issues with the first rollout, including log-in problems and the system not connecting with the right printers. There were also long delays reported at some Dynalife labs due to a technical issue with the new system. Several family doctors reached out to Global News when they weren’t able to access patients’ test results. The original system, Net Care, remained accessible as a backup option during the transfer over to Connect Care.
Waves 2 and 3 were supposed to be in May, with the new system being implemented in several acute and long-term care sites in Edmonton and Calgary, some Calgary medical centres and select Precision Lab locations.
Now, AHS plans to launch Wave 2 on Oct. 24. The next two waves are planned for February and June 2021, spokesperson Kerry Williamson told Global News.
He said Connect Care remains one of the organizations highest priorities.
“Waves 2 and 3 of Connect Care were temporarily delayed in March, given the significantly increased demands on our frontline physicians, staff and services, and the increased health risks our patients and healthcare teams faced due to COVID-19,” he explained.
“While our response to COVID-19 continues, we have resumed the preparations for the upcoming waves of Connect Care.”
The delay has allowed AHS to respond to the pandemic and make sure the new system align with public health measure requirements and new demands on staff, Williamson said.
“Connect Care was adapted to meet the needs of patients, staff and medical staff, including expanding our virtual care options, such as telephone and video visits for patients and families, adding travel screening and COVID-19 diagnosis areas to patient charts, and adapting a variety of other elements to support the COVID-19 response.”
Connect Care will eventually be used across all Alberta Health Services facilities and will be introduced in waves — the final one was supposed to come fall 2022, but has now been postponed to fall 2023.
“We know that the pandemic is not over and that we will need to maintain our ability to remain ready for COVID-19 patients in the foreseeable future,” Williamson said.
“We have carefully assessed the situation and have adjusted our wave rollout plan and sequencing, based on the impact of COVID-19.
“We will continue to assess the impacts of COVID-19 and other factors that may impact our re-launch strategy throughout the coming months, so we can adapt as necessary,” he added.
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