Alberta hires Orion for health records

HealthLink

Orion Systems International has won a contract to provide Alberta a province-wide electronic health record (EHR) system designed to eventually serve 3 million patients and 20,000 clinicians.

Paul Viskovich, president of Orion North America, said he signed the contract last week and expects to have the system up and running by March 31, 2006.

He said the Alberta e-records will use the Edmonton-based Capital Health’s netCare EHR system as a building block. Capital Health's system, which was installed by Orion, covers about 2,000 clinicians and 1.6 million patients. Charlie Fleet, a spokesman for Capital Health, said its original contract with Orion covers deployment of the company's EHR systems throughout other health regions in Alberta, as well as expansion to cover the entire province.

Orion plans to bid on National Health Information Network prototype contracts in the United States, Viskovich said, adding that his company would most likely bid in partnership with a major systems integrator. Orion plans to leverage its electronic health records expertise gained in Canada, Australia and New Zealand to strengthen the company's pitch for U.S. contracts.

The company also expects to use the experience it has gained with its majority-owned affiliate, HealthLink, to develop a secure network for the NHIN. Tom Bowden, chief executive of HealthLink, said HealthLink gives 3,000 clinicians in New Zealand and 4,000 in Australia an affordable and secure way to move sensitive patient data across the Internet.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt has said the United States would use the Internet as the backbone of the NHIN, but Bowden said any Internet-based e-health system has to build in security up front. HealthLink uses public-key infrastructure (PKI) digital certificates similar to technology used by the Defense Message System to authenticate and secure standard Health Level 7 messages as well as 128-bit secure socket layer (SSL) encryption and charges clinicians $14 a month for this service.

HealthLink also offers multi-doctor clinics virtual private networks (VPNs) running the Internet security protocol and 128 bit SSL at a cost of about $53 a month, Bowden said. He added that the goal HHS to use the Internet as the backbone of the NHIN can be met, but said any Internet-based network which carriers sensitive medical information must offer multiple layers of security.

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