There has been admirable restraint involved. After many weeks of news in newspapers and on TV about eHealth Ontario, something more really needs to be said. There needs to be discussion of what eHealth is all about. What is the purpose of eHealth? How could our provincial government spend over a billion dollars of our money with no accountability and nothing to show?
There is absolutely no excuse for the costs involved. Over 20 years ago, I was running a company that created massive searchable databases for fees between $50,000. and $150,000 depending on the input quality. If the data was clean and well organized, the job was easy. If there was a lot of garbage to clean up, it became expensive. There are all kinds of database frameworks on today’s Internet that could easily be adapted for a database of health records? What are eHealth’s problems?
There are two concerns that are critical. The first problem is security. The last group of consultants could not even figure out how to hide their tea and cookie charges from the auditor so how do you expect them to understand the need for privacy of health records.
The second critical need to make a project such as this happen is leadership. What it had instead was a ‘possible’ under Conservative Health Minister Tony Clement, a tentative ‘maybe’ under Liberal Health Minister George Smitherman and a guaranteed disaster under an incompetent David Caplan. It has always seemed axiomatic that to accomplish any task, you have to know what it is you want to accomplish. The problem was that eHealth and its predecessor, Smart Systems for Health, never had properly stated program objectives.
And you will never solve problems such as this with consultants in any event. A consultant without incentives to complete the project is always going to run in circles, drawing fees and expenses and making the project last.
What Clement or Sitherman should have done is make a deal with a company that understood the objective. There are some out there. A proper search for companies capable and then a proper bidding process, could have addressed the problem.
Privacy for the patient and security can be guaranteed by simple expedients such as the government’s assurance that records for an individual can never be accessed without a medical-emergency override or health card with signature. The reason for the medical override is when there is a life-dependent need for speed in a trauma centre situation. Doctors’ offices only need the patient’s written permission.
Queen’s Park should stop playing politics with our safety, wasting our money and get the job done.
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