The province’s new multimillion-dollar electronic health database will not contain people’s existing health records, officials confirmed yesterday.

The oft-delayed project is supposed to merge all the provincial health databases into one easy-to-use system. But health officials told a public accounts committee meeting yesterday it would be too expensive and time consuming to digitize existing health records.

Instead the database will kick off with a two-month “memory” of medical histories and record everything going forward.

Health department chief information officer Sandra Cascadden said most doctors only look at the past year and a half of someone’s history, unless it involves chronic problems. She said in those cases doctors could choose to upload more information.

However, while all hospital data will be automatically updated, only 298 of the province’s approximately 2,000 physicians have chosen to invest in hooking up to the system to send information. Doing so is optional.

“New doctors want it. They do not want to go back to the paper (system),” said deputy health minister Kevin McNamara. “Where we have some challenges is with some of the older physicians who are not used to using computers in any circumstance.”

Cascadden said the new system will eventually make things much easier for patients, while saving the government money.

The province is contributing $9 million to the project with the federal government footing the remaining $19 million.

Summer kickoff
The system was supposed to kick off this month but officials now hope it will be ready by June. They said the delay was caused by H1N1 and preparation for a narrowly avoided union strike.

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