November 25th, 2014

Telus apologizes for system crash

By Gillian Slade on June 12, 2014. @MHNGillianSlade

Telus apologizes profusely for the failure of its systems that saw Alberta’s patient medical records system crash on Monday resulting in cancelled appointments and frustrated doctors.

“We’ve clearly caused a level of degradation in our system that is unacceptable to doctors and patients. On behalf of the organization I apologize,” said Josh Blair, chief corporate officer and executive vice-president of Telus Health.

The reason for the system crashing and remaining inaccessible to physicians for several hours was a technical issue that was difficult to find and address, said Blair.

“Doctors have my personal and professional commitment … under my leadership,” said Blair.

Dr. Donovan Nunweiler of Southlands Medical Clinic, is “optimistic they will make changes and move forward” but still feels Alberta Health enticed physicians to move from their own electronic patient record system to the one they endorsed — Telus Health Wolf — then abandoned them, no longer giving any support or enforcing a certain standard.

“Each doctor has a separate contract with the service provider, and Alberta Health is not a part of these agreements. However, we are monitoring the situation as the service provider works to address the concerns,” said Timothy Wilson, spokesperson for Alberta Health.

“The initial support for the service was for a prescribed term. This was communicated to clinicians who signed on when the funding was introduced.”

Alberta Health is responsible for the chosen electronic medical record system and the impact its failure has on patients, said Ken Hoeppner, a patient whose appointment was cancelled on Monday.

Having been laid off by Baker Hughes when it closed its Medicine Hat office, Hoeppner is looking for a job but needs to get an issue with his leg sorted out first. He had hoped to get test results on Monday and move on with finding another job.

“Big time it is affecting my income,” said Hoeppner.

HealthWORX Medical Clinic is concerned about the affect this is having on all its patients.

“There is nothing we as a clinic can do if the system is down, it is completely controlled by TELUS Health,” said Carel Liebenberg practice manager at HealthWORX.

Liebenberg suggests Alberta Health’s monitoring of the system may not be enough to ensure the long-term viability of the program.

“When the system went down last year, (on June 13, 2013, 202 medical clinics across the province could not access the system) they were also monitoring the situation, and that was that. Nothing more was done,” said Liebenberg.

Under the terms of the request for proposals, that saw Telus Health have the endorsement of Alberta Health, they were required to provide consistent service 99.9 per cent of the time.

Blair is promising improved technical expertise, intellectual property expertise, and financial resources to upgrade systems to handle volume seamlessly, and a stronger team to handle repairs more quickly when there are issues.

“We were too slow repairing the system,” said Blair. “We will get better at that.”

Some improvements have already started. There will be short-term improvements, some over the next few months, and long-term improvements over the next year or two to strengthen the whole system, said Blair.

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