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ConnectingOntario VS. Blockchain Technology

Data storage and the security of data storage continues to be a prevalent need among major organizations. Companies that collect sensitive user and customer information have teams dedicated to ensuring their data is secure. Blockchain technology is the answer to all large-scale data housing problems. In a nutshell "it enables recording and storage of peer-to-peer transactions in a digital form." Not only does Blockchain house data securely, but it is also wallet friendly. With real-time processing and no need for third-party operating teams, Blockchain can decrease transaction costs tenfold.

An article posted by The Globe and Mail from January of this year addresses the growing Ontario healthcare capacity crisis. This issue ultimately points to funding being at the core of the overcrowding and lack of resources. "Every day, roughly 3,000 beds in Ontario - 16 percent of the total - are filled by patients not requiring urgent care, but for whom there is no bed in the overloaded rehab or long-term care systems where they would otherwise belong." Emergency room wait times are at an all-time high, and the medical professionals work endlessly to perform their duties with the resources they have.

eHealth Ontario has begun to implement its very own healthcare data sharing technology called ConnectingOntario. "ConnectingOntario is integrating electronic patient information from across the care continuum and making it available at the point-of-care to improve the patient and clinician experience." The system is leveraging existing investments but is primarily being funded by eHealth Ontario and is already being applied at several different healthcare facilities in the Greater Toronto Area. We asked Emergency Medicine Resident at the University of Toronto, Dr Andrew Quirion who works daily with ConnectingOntario, to see what his thoughts are on the program.

"The system is great when the info is there. It allows us to get collateral history on our patients when they come into the emergency room but we are unable to get background history on them for a multitude of medical reasons. The biggest downside is that not all hospitals are hooked into the system. Most Toronto hospitals are but it is limited, and network also excludes family doctor's notes".

Keeping in mind that the program is not entirely implemented, this first-hand account of the new database tool gives us an idea of the province's progress into creating a more efficient patient care system. Like Blockchain, it claims to address a lot of the essential requirements such as the decentralization of data storage for easy access and real-time info.

We know that centralized systems are often slow and demonstrate weakness when it comes to providing complete and consistent data. One of the pillars of Blockchain is that it collates all data without the need to compile it physically; ensuring trusted and complete data. As Dr Quirion mentions, he is currently working with fragmented patient data most likely because the project is still in the early stages of application.

Several questions are surrounding the ConnectingOntario project as the network continues to expand:

  1. Will all the missing data be available including family doctor notes?
  2. What are the 'medical reasons' for missing background information?
  3. Does this give reason to believe that ConnectingOntario will not be as secure as eHealth is leading to believe?

We will only know how complete and trusted the network would be once the entire province is online. The GTA portion of the multi-year project is forecasting the ability to serve 50 percent of Ontarians once complete. "The program will provide better access to information for approximately 750 healthcare organizations and associated clinicians, resulting in better care for 6.75 million residents in the region".

Quick and accurate data would cut down patient care timelines and ultimately free up facility space. This type of efficiency is required in an industry such as healthcare, but the underlying issue behind the lack of resources is funding. It is excellent news that Ontario's government has decided to improve information flow by implementing its own innovative system. Should ConnectingOntario be successful, it will ultimately have a positive rolling effect on the capacity crisis.

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