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Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do We Need eCHN?

Up-to-date, accurate and comprehensive patient information is essential for  the  best medical decision-making. In an emergency situation, it could mean the difference between life and death. As health care delivery has become increasingly specialized, the job of providing coordinated care to Ontario’s children has grown ever more challenging. more↓

Young patients, especially those with chronic or complex conditions, are often required to move among a variety of health care providers in different facilities. Each patient visit can produce new medical data which forms an essential piece of the entire health picture for the individual patient. Yet until eCHN's arrival, a parallel system for circulating crucial patient information was lacking.

eCHN enables a vital transfer of patient health information among health care providers that is rapid and seamless. By meeting this important requirement of our health care system, eCHN is working to improve the health of every child in the province. close↑

Patient health information was transferred among health care providers before eCHN existed. What's wrong with the traditional system of information transfer?

Without eCHN, information transfer among facilities is a time-consuming, haphazard process, largely paper-based. Much patient data still lies buried in the paper files of individual hospitals and offices. Even when electronic records are used, as in most hospitals, they are usually incompatible with systems at other facilities and are transferred in paper form. more↓

In addition, not every physician or other health care provider within a child's "circle of care" is necessarily mandated by the various protocols of  health institutions to receive new data, such as test results. To follow-up, they would have to make inquiries via phone calls, faxes or letters which could take days or even weeks to get a response. Alternatively, parents of patients would have to collect and carry paper documents to medical appointments themselves or rely on their memory of past visits elsewhere. Crucial information could end up missing or unavailable.

This hit-and-miss approach to information transfer is shadowed with the possibility of error and invests medical decision-making with an unnecessary element of risk. Without the full details of a patient’s health history, the potential exists for inefficiencies and mistakes. If a child is brought into a hospital Emergency Department, health care providers may be forced to make rapid decisions about treatment without having key information at hand. Erroneous decisions could have major, even life-threatening consequences.

The need for a rapid and seamless transfer of patient health information among health care providers has long been evident. It is this vital requirement of our health care system that eCHN fulfills so effectively. close↑

Who Belongs/Has Access to eCHN?

Only authorized health care professionals such as doctors, nurses, technicians and therapists involved in the “circle of care” for a specific patient are allowed to access the child's health record. eCHN member sites encompass more than 100 hospital sites around the province. more↓

These include Tertiary Care Centres like Toronto’s Sick Children’s Hospital,
London Health Sciences Centre and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa. In addition, member sites include Community Care Access Centres, Children’s Treatment Centres, Community Health Centres, independent medical clinics, and the offices of individual paediatricians and family physicians. close↑

What kind of patient data does eCHN supply to health care providers?

eCHN's clinical data repositories contain the health information of Ontario patients from newborn to age 19. The network supplies such key areas of health information as: admission, discharge and transfer data; lab reports; clinic notes; consultant’s letters and surgical notes; X-ray images and reports. These are integrated into an easy-to-use WebChart that duplicates an actual medical chart. eCHN's clinical data repositories contain the records of more than 2.5 million Ontario children and over 17.5 million patient encounters - and continue to grow daily.

Can eCHN protect the confidentiality of the patient health information it provides?

eCHN is absolutely committed to protecting the privacy of patients’ personal health information and operates with the highest level of security safeguards in place. eCHN data are encrypted and travel through a  secure private network. Only authorized health care professionals involved in a specific child’s “circle of care” can gain access to the patient’s chart and a rigorous audit system keeps track of who signs in and why. Data posted on eCHN are not available to any government or private organization and are not used for research purposes.

Learn More about eCHN's Privacy Policy >

Why does it matter that eCHN is an "integrated" health record?

There are many electronic health record systems. What makes eCHN so  distinctive is that it is able to collect the data from dozens of different electronic information systems located at multiple Ontario sites and consolidate them into the form of a single coherent medical record - an easy-to-read WebChart. This is crucially important because in order to deliver the best patient care, health care providers require access to the most complete, up-to-date patient health information possible.

How does eCHN integrate all of this information from different systems and locations?

A key factor in eCHN's dramatic growth has been its cutting-edge technical ingenuity. At the start, the biggest technical and human challenge the eCHN team faced was the fact that hospitals and other health care institutions operate with dozens of different, often customized, clinical information systems that they have no inclination to change. more↓

These systems are not linked and in effect, speak different languages - a reality which has defeated many previous attempts to integrate the data they contain. However, the eCHN team managed to solve this seemingly insurmountable problem. By building interfaces to the various clinical applications being used, as well as painstakingly grappling with each site's specific rules, the eCHN team has been able to link up all the various information systems and normalize the data across the board. eCHN has enabled health care institutions to become members without being required to change their favoured computer programs. close↑

What are eCHN's plans for the future?

The eCHN team continues to expand the paediatric health record in Ontario, with new data and new patients being added every day. At the same time, there are exciting new initiatives underway. Specialists in clinical areas like oncology, endocrinology and cardiac care are asking eCHN to deepen the chart and build in the highly specialized data they require. more↓

More and more physicians are continuing to gain access from their offices. Hospitals whose data are not yet integrated into eCHN’s provincial record are demanding to be included. Similarly, physicians and other health care providers, who look after children with paediatric (Type 1) diabetes, have been clamouring for eCHN to add a specialized tracking tool for their patients.

eCHN is a flexible, open, scaleable system designed to be interoperable with other provincial services, as they become available. For example, physicians have been asking that eCHN provide them with access to test results from the comunity labs of the Ontario Lab Information System (OLIS), to supplement the lab results eCHN is already providing them from hospital labs. When OLIS goes live, eCHN will be able to interoperate with it and provide its lab results to eCHN users.

eCHN has an even more ambitious vision for its future: that its achievement will support and advance the development of a universal health record for the province. The remarkable utility of an integrated electronic record for the paediatric population has been demonstrated. eCHN is now the obvious model for how to build an integrated health record for the entire population of Ontario. close↑

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