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An Education in Electronic Health Records

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are an important part of patient care in the modern era, but until recently, there hasn’t been enough educational focus on EHRs beyond vendor-specific training. This BCcampus pilot project set out to change that.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

In 2018, we announced a pilot project that we were working on with a group of engaged educators from institutions across the province. The focus of the pilot project was to help post-secondary students across a wide variety of health care disciplines—including nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, midwifery, speech and audiology, genetic counselling, pharmacy, and traditional medicine—gain valuable experience through an Educational Electronic Health Records (EdEHR) platform. We’re now in the process of completing this project, and working towards handing the product over to an organization, consortium, or institution that can take it to the next level, possibly with commercial applications.

Who benefits?

“Students need to be encouraged to think in a different way about electronic documentation,” shared Dr. Joseph Anthony, interim associate dean of health professions in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. “If we’re not training students to think about EHRs, we’re doing them a disservice. When they enter a clinical placement or the workforce, they’ll be expected to know how to use these tools. With BCcampus’ generous support and professional management, we were able to get this project to the point it is now.”

“By providing students with the ability to learn how to use EHRs in the classroom setting, they will ultimately be able to spend more time with their patients in the clinical setting,” said Glynda Rees, faculty in the Bachelor of Science program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. “Students need to learn how to work with anything that’s technologically foreign to them. The first few times students work with an automatic blood pressure cuff or IV pump, they spend more time focused on the technology instead of the patient, but as they use it more, it becomes easier for them to interact with their patients at the same time. The EdEHR project helps them understand the implications and impact of EHRs before they’re in contact with patients.”

“Providing students with an accurate and effective sandbox gives them exposure to the technology before they go into the real world, and this is a vitally important project for today’s health care practices,” said Jason Min, lecturer, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia. “It will be great to see this become a meaningful implementation in a variety of different programs for the institutions throughout the province, and with necessary iterative improvements, this has amazing pedagogical potential across all health programs.”

Current status

“We were very successful in terms of building this project—working with the steering committee, discovering their needs, and delivering on the requirements—but our group is made up of educators, not software developers,” said David Shaykewich, manager of DevOps at BCcampus. “This project is now ready for an organization or institution to take it forward, and there are multiple business models that might work well for them.”

At this time, the EdEHR platform is at the pilot-ready, prototype stage. We have done some testing and made many iterations to bring the project to its current status, and the software development is substantially complete. BCcampus will fund additional in-class pilots next spring and summer, but we will not be operating the system as a service. There is a significant opportunity available for a group or organization to take over this project to launch it as a Software as a service (SaaS) model. It will be relatively quick and simple to make it available to B.C. post-secondary classrooms, and with the SaaS model, the overhead to run the software is minimal. The code and support documentation is available in a repository on GitHub. We built this on an open licence model so that it would be free and easy to adopt, but it will require strategy and an investment to ensure student privacy and security are protected at all times.     

Notable quote:

“The environmental scan we did last year showed that there is a clear lack of EHR training options for health care students. This is a national and international issue, and this pilot project is addressing that learning gap.” —Jason Min, lecturer, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UBC

“Educators have been looking for a project like this for over a decade, so it was a big success for BCcampus to get involved and help build this learning tool, working with the steering committee to bring it to a state where it has broader potential for considerable growth.” —David Shaykewich, Manager, DevOps at BCcampus

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