DynaLIFE medical labs were part of the first wave launch of Alberta Health Services’ new electronic system, Connect Care.
On Tuesday, DynaLIFE’s CEO spoke with Global News about the transition, ongoing issues, and the benefits of having one central system to track patients through a lifetime of care.
Despite pre-launch training, Jason Pincock said there were two big hurdles with the move to Connect Care, from a lab perspective. The first was a problem with the printer driver which meant labs that see up to 600 patients a day couldn’t print labels to put on test tubes.
“The first message in those first couple days was: ‘Can someone please fix my printer?’ That was the universal message. I’m so glad we got past that on day three.
“You have no idea how such a simple problem can bring everyone to their knees for a few days, but it did.”
The second challenge is sending the lab results to the correct destination. It’s the same “e-delivery” issue Alberta Health Services told Global News about on Friday, and what Pincock described as updating “one of the most complex contact lists anyone could possibly imagine.”
Under Connect Care, each physician and clinic location have new identification numbers, which are attached to lab requisitions. They’re referred to “provider” and “submitter” IDs. Even though the first phase launch only included several Edmonton hospitals, it also included DynaLIFE, which means any doctor or patient who uses lab services is also on Connect Care.
“We’re working all the way from Drumheller to Inuvik,” Pincock said. “DynaLIFE, we went live, not as a site, but as a whole system, so if you, regardless of your location, if we are your provider, then you are now on this new system.
“You can imagine how complex that contact list can be when you think of that kind of geographic scope. But those are the things we’re working through now.
“The good news is we’ve made great progress in the last few days and so we’re very confident that while it’s going to take a bit of time to get to where we want to be, we’re making big steps every day.”
One aspect of the switch is having all community physicians add those new IDs; the other factor is that people are — and will be for some time — coming to get lab tests done that were ordered before the Connect Care launch, and therefore, don’t have the new IDs on them.
“If you look outside of metropolitan Edmonton, one of the biggest issues we have is the provider or submitter has not been set up because the doctor maybe thought it didn’t apply to them,” Pincock said. “So now, we’re just going through the process of that.
“But remember, regardless of that process, the results are going to Netcare, we’re contacting physicians on anything that’s important and we’ll make sure those results get there. It just may not be, in the first week or so here, exactly the way they’ve always had them or received them.”
If a patient comes for testing at a DynaLIFE lab without the new doctor/location IDs on their requisition, staff have steps in place. Instead of quickly typing in a five-digit number, they have to look it up by address and doctor’s name.
“We have maintained extra staffing at our sites because we’re still dealing with some of those key issues,” Pincock said. “I took a look at our wait times as we improved over the last week, in making sure we saw patients.
“I know those first day or two were pretty rough but we’re making good headway and we’re definitely closer to our normal operations and wait times.”
He estimates the contact-list issue will be an ongoing one as older lab requisitions come in but hopes, within several weeks, will be sorted out.
The short-term struggles, he says, are worth it.
“As a laboratory, the last time we did this was in 1996. These are big changes. That being said, the fact that I’m sitting here on day nine and the laboratory is operating as it should, and all of our equipment is up and all of our test results are going out and all our specimens are being handled, I would say that’s a pretty successful story. Not to say it hasn’t been a little bit of a rocky road.”
Pincock said the Connect Care system has huge potential.
“The difference is: this is not just a lab system; this is a system that connects the lab, the hospitals and clinics all across the province.
“And now our doctors, even in the lab, will be able to look at what’s happening with that patient across their continuum of care. That was just never possible before because we were in so many separate systems.”
Another benefit? Albertans will be able to look up their own lab results.
“Patients can register through My Health Portal and begin to get their lab results. That’s very exciting. We’ve been waiting to do that for a very long time,” Pincock said. “I’m a huge believer in empowering patients with information to manage their healthcare. I think that will be a really critical step forward.”