Many people who live in Cudworth and Wakaw travel between the two communities. Sometimes, they need to access health services or get test results in the other community.

Up until today, staff couldn’t access a thorough patient history if a patient from one community visited at the other community’s clinic. And there may have been charts in both clinics for the same patient, leading to an increased opportunity for error or duplicate tests. All of that changes with the introduction of electronic medical records, or EMRs.

“Up until today, we worked in paper,” says Jone Barry, a nurse practitioner (NP) in the two communities. “The receptionist would bring the patient in to the exam room, hand the paper chart to the health practitioner who would review the chart in their office. Then we would go to the patient, make notes on the chart, then finish charting in our offices. We would repeat the process for the next patient.”

Jone Barry is a nurse practitioner in Wakaw.

Jone Barry is a nurse practitioner in Wakaw.

While the health professionals may still have a separate office, all the note-taking and writing orders can happen immediately on the computer. And Barry is excited that she’ll now be able to provide information for patients at the click of a button. The EMR will be available on a secure computer system so that the Cudworth patient stopping in Wakaw for test results from the NP will be able to get it easily. It will improve access to results and potentially decrease duplication of tests.

EMR is already available in five rural Saskatoon Health Region primary health centres. Wakaw and Cudworth come on line as of April 1, 2014. The system allows health professionals to share information securely and to get first hand assistance from colleagues. “If I have a question about a patient and I’m not sure if I’m on the right track, I can write a ‘task’ to another practitioner and ask for their response,” says Barry. “It’s all written down in the EMR. So, doctors who work part-time can contribute to the care of the patient without having to funnel the information through a third person.” There is also access to best practice guidelines and templates that ensure the best practices are being implemented by the health provider.

Barry says it should help improve health care as accessing the information on a computer allows her to look forward to her appointments and plan ahead for patients by accessing their lab results, finding out if they’ve made it to see a specialist or get information to inform them of their health status.

As Wakaw prepares for the first collaborative emergency centre in Saskatoon Health Region, primary health officials hope to integrate the EMR program across the two systems as well as allowing the doctor on call to be able to connect to it.

The ultimate goal is to create timely and accurate access to information for providers and patients regardless of where they present for health care. Barry says she didn’t grow up on a computer, but she’s learning the new system. “Change can be uncomfortable. Not all change is bad, though.”