Emergis: Widening the scope of digital patient records

June 24, 2011
Using open systems architecture, one Canadian company is enabling healthcare facilities to form data repositories, share information between care

Using open systems architecture, one Canadian company is enabling healthcare facilities to form data repositories, share information between care sites, and track patients through the full continuum of care from within a specific care delivery organization or across an entire community or region.

Emergis [TSX: EME], headquartered in greater Montreal, centers its U.S. operations near San Francisco. Garnering the #35 slot on the 2007 Healthcare Informatics Top 100 listing, the company offers a portfolio of healthcare IT solutions, fostering connectivity and data-sharing on multiple levels enterprise, community, regional, and province/state.

As a company, Emergis has had a strong presence in Canada since 1998. From a health perspective, it focused mainly on drug information and claims processing arenas, notes Alain Larochelle, senior vice president for health in the public sector. The company's Assure EHR and Assyst Rx products are designed to link pharmacies and provide drug administration capabilities, such as drug utilization review, patient profiles and billing.

Since 40 percent of Canada's pharmacies are Emergis customers, the company "enjoys a market leadership position in the adjudication of drug claims insured by the private sector," Larochelle adds.

But Emergis' 2006 acquisition of the Ottawa-based company named DINMAR added a key product on the enterprise electronic medical record side of the equation — Oacis EMR.

Oacis, known in the United States as the first open-architecture clinical data repository created by the early HL7 community, now boasts enterprise EMR functionality. It offers clinical documentation for nurses, doctors, and allied care professionals; full order management with CPOE; ED tracking; and more. Through Oacis' inherent ability to interoperate with other systems, care delivery organizations can retain their existing IT investments while offering their clinicians robust, web-based EMR functionality. Oacis' extremely high clinician adoption rates lead to improved care quality and increased patient safety, notes John Hendriks, senior vice president of business development, U.S. operations.

Oacis also offers an Enterprise Master Patient Index (EMPI) which automatically consolidates duplicate patient records, a big challenge for enterprises (and communities) often comprised of numerous systems with redundant data. The Oacis EMPI ensures that caregivers see one consolidated patient record.

Emergis recently launched the Oacis Health Data Warehouse, an optimized information mine which culls the Oacis CDR and other feeder systems. Researchers and planners can use the warehouse to track outcomes, assess population health trends, and monitor the progress of strategic plans.

The addition of Oacis has enabled Emergis to embrace business opportunities brought on by customer demand, and to be nimble enough to take on region-wide clinical information network projects. "Our customers value Oacis as a clinical solution that, when implemented, results in better patient care and increased patient safety," Larochelle says. "And, the world is realizing that there are huge benefits to moving from point-of-service care delivery to continuum-of-care delivery."

Because of its open-system architecture and its flexibility, Oacis is ideal for health systems that want a common electronic medical record but are saddled with pockets of disparate systems, Hendriks notes.

"What separates us is the open architecture of our product and our ability to connect with any of the industry's products," he says. "Healthcare organizations can continue to operate their lab systems, radiology, pharmacy and so forth, without replacing those systems. They simply overlay our system on top of what's already there."

Emergis has approximately 100 Oacis installations worldwide, including Dallas' University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the entire state of South Australia, and 50 sites in Canada.

One of Emergis' more formidable undertakings is to provide data repositories and longitudinal electronic medical record capabilities for all the acute-care facilities in the Montreal region.

"We've already installed the repository component for eight teaching hospitals [in Montreal], and we're moving on to the orders and documentation as we speak," Hendriks says. "We're starting to do the preliminary work for an additional six teaching hospitals."

Larochelle adds that the installation challenge is to complete the painstaking work of tying in all the ancillary clinics, physician office and affiliated care facilities — anywhere a patient might go for care — and to make the data available in the region-wide repository and subsequently through the Oacis Clinical Viewer application, which represents the longitudinal electronic medical record.

In June, Emergis formed a five-year partnership with the Ontario Pharmacists' Association. Under the deal, Emergis will provide technology and support to the OPA's Drug Information and Research Centre, while the OPA will share its clinical decision support tools, adding to Emergis' knowledgebase.

The company reported healthcare earnings of $113.8 million Canadian for 2006, but its healthcare sector earnings had already risen 39 percent in 1Q 2007.

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