100 patient referrals delayed due to technical errors with electronic records system, Health P.E.I. says
Officials with Health P.E.I. say a hundred medical referrals have been delayed because of technical problems with the province's new electronic medical record system.
This includes referrals that were sent to a physician's account that wasn't even active in the system — yet somehow, the physician's account has been receiving emails and referrals since July 2022.
In a statement, Health P.E.I. said a total of 70 referrals were sent to the physician and delayed, including at least eight who "have been deemed needing an urgent appointment."
Those patients are being contacted by phone this week and will be given appointments as soon as possible. The remaining patients whose referrals have been delayed in this process will be getting letters from Health P.E.I. with more information next week, the statement said.
A spokesperson with Health P.E.I. said this incident has been reviewed, and steps have been taken to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Audit of EMR system complete
Health P.E.I. and Department of Health officials said the error was found during a recent review specifically done to look at the patient referral process under the EMR system.
The system allows physicians to share information such as diagnostic images, prescription history and other clinician notes with other health professionals.
Through that review, 1,700 patient referrals were audited after showing they had been submitted incorrectly in the system. Of those, 100 referrals were delayed because of those errors.
The review was done following an incident last November, when Health P.E.I. alerted the public that about 700 patient referrals for obstetrics and gynecology appointments were delayed because of technical errors with the EMR system.
"We started looking back into the primary care providers, the family doctors and nurse practitioners because we're the ones that send those to the consultants," said Dr. Kristy Newson, physician advisor for the pilot project.
"We want to be sure that the referrals that people were sending through the EMR are actually sent to the consultants."
Green leader says system 'inefficient'
Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker raised concerns about the EMR system in the legislature on Friday.
He said the current system isn't working and has garnered complaints for the physicians who use it — something he worries will impact the province's ability to retain doctors and attract more to come here.
"At a time when technology presumably allows us to be more communicative than we ever have been, it's quite astonishing to me that the province has been shouldered with a system that is so inefficient, so ineffective and creates a bunch of problems," Bevan-Baker said.
Internal emails tabled
Bevan-Baker tabled internal emails in the legislature between Health P.E.I. and department staff sent last November that show the system required doctors to send records in a two-step process if they were referring to a doctor outside of the EMR system.
According to the emails, referrals had to first be entered and then electronically faxed to the specialist.
Newson confirmed this process was the cause for a number of missed referrals, as in many cases doctors would forget to actually fax the referral once it was in the system.
Back in November we still had this hybrid charting, where some of us were on the EMR and some of us hadn't implemented it yet. - Dr. Kristy Newson
She said about 80 per cent of primary care physicians have signed on to the EMR system and can communicate directly though that, which should reduce the number of errors.
"Back in November we still had this hybrid charting, where some of us were on the EMR and some of us hadn't implemented it yet," Newson said.
"We can now send referrals internally, the way the EMR was meant to be used."
She said the goal is to have all primary care physicians who are currently practicing transferred to the EMR system by this fall.