By Gillian Slade on June 10, 2014.
Many patients were turned away from their doctor’s office Monday because a province-wide electronic medical record computer system had collapsed.
“This is the third straight week of issues with the TELUS Wolf system,” said Dr. Donovan Nunweiler at Southlands Medical Clinic. “We feel we were encouraged by government to switch to Wolf and now it’s not working.”
A year ago 202 physician clinics across Alberta using TELUS Wolf were unable to access patient records for most of the day.
On Monday patients arrived only to be told the electronic patient files were not accessible making it impossible to see test results, past medical history and medications.
“This is affecting me big time and affecting my income,” said Ken Hoeppner, a patient at HealthWORX Medical clinic, who had waited 15 days for his appointment. “Every time government touches something they wreck it. Our health care used to be good here before Alberta Health Services took over.”
At HealthWORX, office manager Carel Liebenberg said the office was doing what it could to reschedule people. One patient had driven three hours to be there for his appointment early Monday.
At Health Matters Medical Clinic, staff confirmed they too were dealing with no access to patients’ records on TELUS’s Wolf system.
Originally to encourage physicians to move to electronic medical records, the government gave a monetary incentive. Alberta Health selected TELUS Health Solutions Wolf EMR after a request for proposals in 2008.
There was a requirement for the service to be available 99.9 per cent of the time between 6 a.m. and midnight with financial penalties for failure to do so.
“There is no longer any government support,” said Nunweiler. “We (Southlands Medical Clinic) pay $2,000 a month for this. Who is going to hold TELUS accountable now? The government has abandoned us. Cost and issues switching patient data, when systems are not compatible, prevents us from going somewhere else.”
Liebenberg reached TELUS at 9 a.m. Monday.
“They said they had just become aware of the issue and that their data technicians were in a meeting discussing the problem,” said Liebenberg. “Last week the system was extremely slow, taking 15 minutes for a physician to simply renew a prescription.”
Nunweiler said he’d made notes on paper as he struggled to manage the snail’s pace of the system last week. Monday he would be adding to those notes and envisaged several hours at night entering the data to make it current.
Liebenberg said the need to re-schedule appointments reflects badly on the clinic and some patients don’t understand it’s a system failure beyond the clinic’s.
Dr. Franz Yonker said HealthWORX had been using JonokeMed but the government endorsed TELUS Wolf and physicians were encouraged to switch.
“I think this is really bad for a government-backed system,” said Yonker.
Becky Nelson arrived for her appointment to refill prescriptions and was concerned about how long it would take to get another appointment.
“The government needs to get this on track. We are suffering the consequences,” said Nelson.
Donna Schneider brought her mother Vernie Ferguson in for results of some tests. Ferguson said she was not at all well.
“There is nowhere else to go and get my test results,” said Ferguson.
The News requested an interview with TELUS but there was no response on Monday afternoon.
The News requested information from Alberta Health but that was not available on Monday.
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