Mother’s hospitalization in Calgary brings new level of appreciation for CST’s electronic patient record

As a health professional for more than 17 years, Corrie Irwin understands the clinical benefits of electronic patient records – a key component of the Clinical & Systems Transformation (CST) project. But when Corrie’s mother was recently hospitalized, she got a whole new perspective.

“This was my first view into the possibilities of what an electronic record can provide for patients and their families,” explains Corrie, Director, Surgical Services LGH and SGH, Acute Services.

Earlier this year, Corrie’s mother was in an accident that required a lengthy surgery as part of her care. Corrie was able to rush to Calgary and visit her mother in the hospital after the accident, but unfortunately couldn’t stay for her surgery and returned to Vancouver.

Days later, Corrie called the hospital after the surgery, concerned and looking for any information the hospital could provide from a province away.

She was initially anxious because she was unable to speak to her mother’s primary nurse. But her concerns faded when the nurse on the phone was able to quickly access her mother’s electronic patient record and report on her status.

“Where it really spoke to me,” says Corrie, “was when the nurse said: ‘I can look at her electronic chart and get updates from the recovery room, and I see that she is awake and alert. She’s breathing on her own and her vital signs are stable.’”

With instant access to the chart, the nurse was also able to tell Corrie that her mom would be back on her unit within the hour.

This access to information from a different unit in the hospital, from a province away, impressed Corrie.

“My mother was not physically on the unit in front of her primary nurse, but the nurse I talked to could still follow her throughout the hospital and give me the reassuring information I was hoping to get,” says Corrie. “What started out as a stressful, uncertain call became a very reassuring situation.”

A key component of CST will be the introduction of a shared clinical information system that will house current patient records across VCH, PHSA and PHC. This means there will be easy-to-access information about each patient’s status, including allergies, medications and previous medical history.

“We all agree CST will help improve care, but the experience of seeing these benefits from the perspective of a patient’s family member was reaffirming,” Corrie says.