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Erin Kenning
Erin Kenning, public health clinical coordinator at Nanaimo's Youth Wellness Centre (right) and administrative assistant Lori Klosch enter information from a client onboarding form into the EHR.

Electronic health records for youth help broad care team make a difference

A move to electronic clinical documentation is helping boost efficiency, safety and collaboration for a busy team of public health professionals serving youth in Nanaimo and Ladysmith.

Island Health’s Wellness Centres offer a broad range of health services to youth and young adults up to age 25.  Centres are located in Nanaimo and Ladysmith high schools and in a new permanent office located at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre. Youth come to the Centres to seek help with many different health issues, from physical and mental health to sexual health and contraception, substance use, counselling, and referrals to a wide range of community-based health services and resources. 

Erin Kenning, a public health coordinator working with the Wellness Centres’ public health care team and a long list of community partners, began advocating with her colleagues for the transition to electronic clinical documentation more than three years ago. 

Members of the Wellness Centres’ health care team, including public health nurses, primary care physicians, and counsellors, are often working across multiple sites and have found paper charting to be cumbersome and inefficient, Kenning said.

“It’s a lot of lugging charts around, it’s very problematic. The ongoing challenge of paper charts was pushing us in the direction of really wanting to move to an electronic module.”

Two Wellness Centres – at Nanaimo’s John Barsby Community School and at the new location in the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre – were approved in 2018 to begin their transition to IHealth’s Electronic Health Record (EHR). 

“Working with the IHealth Cerner team, we did lots of pre-launch planning. We did education (in the new system), engagement surveys and engagement meetings, and worked with our primary care providers and experts on the IHealth team along with the physicians and nurses to do the training,” Kenning said.

The transition to full use of the IHealth EHR for the two sites was supported at launch 18 months ago by elbow-to-elbow support from IHealth team members, and accessed virtually through phone and Zoom. 

“It has made our lives a thousand times easier,” said Kenning. “It saves so much time and honours confidentiality all that much better because we’re not carrying around paper charts.”

Use of the EHR has also helped connect the Wellness Centres’ team members to acute care settings, where health care providers can access critical information related to emergencies experienced by youth who have visited the Centres.

 “It allows for such smooth information sharing between providers, especially when those practitioners, the nurses and physicians working closely together, can both see that information,” Kenning said.

Alexander Fyfe was the project manager of the IHealth team involved in supporting the Wellness Centres in their transition to the EHR. 

“We saw how great the need was and knew how much this would change their practices,” Fyfe said. “Having the primary care centre in a school, I found was revolutionary and exciting. A high school student can take control of their health and their health care journey, and form their own relationships with the health care system.”

Fyfe and others on the IHealth team worked with the health professionals at the two Wellness Centres through what both he and Kenning described as the most challenging time in the project. As a newer care delivery model, a number of changes to the EHR system needed to be made in order to provide the best possible workflow.

“This is a really inspiring primary care service that wraps all of these different groups around the patient,” Fyfe said. “So that was part of the fun, figuring out how to appropriately prepare and train all these different groups that are coming together for these youth.”

Kenning agreed the challenge in making the transition to electronic charting has been well worth the effort.

“We’ve had such a positive experience working with the IHealth team, and generally everyone is just really happy. It’s a win-win.”

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