December 3, 2018 5:37 pm
Updated: December 3, 2018 5:38 pm

Software glitch that delayed medical results affected patients across Canada, Telus says

John Haggie, Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Health and Community Services responds to a reporter's questions at a press conference during the Conferences of Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Health in Winnipeg on June 28, 2018.

The Canadian Press/John Woods
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Patients across the country may have missed seeing timely medical results because of a software issue involving an electronic medical record program.

Most of the patients were in Newfoundland and Labrador, where medical test results for 615 patients between November 2017 and last month were delivered late to health care providers, who may have been delayed in bringing the results to patients.

The province uses Telus Health’s Med Access software, which is also used in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

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In a statement, Ohad Arazi of Telus Health said the error affected a total of 876 patients across the six provinces.

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Health Minister John Haggie said Newfoundland and Labrador has the widest pool of affected patients, accounting for almost three-quarters of the total, because the province’s healthcare system has integrated the program more extensively.

Arazi said Telus Health has contacted “all applicable physicians” to communicate with their patients about the error, which was related to software coding.

“During a software update of our Med Access Electronic Medical Record (EMR) solution, we became aware of a coding issue that prevented some physicians from viewing select clinical reports,” Arazi wrote.

“We apologize for this situation and will work diligently to prevent this unique workflow issue from recurring.”

The issue did not impact the accuracy or privacy of the results, Arazi said.

A case-by-case investigation has begun to make sure all affected patients in Newfoundland and Labrador are accounted for, but so far Haggie said his department has not heard of any direct patient harm arising from the issue.

“I’m sorry it happened and I think it’s not an acceptable situation,” Haggie said in a news conference on Monday.

“The important thing from our point of view is to identify if there’s been any harm and try and remediate that.”

Haggie said many of the cases likely involve blood work, diagnostic imaging or medical consultations but critical results were not affected because the physician would be contacted by phone about urgent findings.

It’s still unclear how many patients actually missed getting timely information, Haggie said.

The records would still have been available on paper or online through the province’s own medical records viewing service, but Haggie said communication gaps could have arisen if a physician primarily used the electronic medical record program to keep track of files.

“It was simply that a physician who is used to using the EMR may have simply focused on that as the source of their information,” Haggie said.

Notices have been sent by mail or courier to the patients affected and Haggie encouraged people to follow up with their own doctors.

Haggie said the province is now receiving a daily report from Telus Health to cross-reference with reports from the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information to prevent future issues.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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