McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Comprehensive, secure and inexpensive electronic health record system developed at McMaster University

Published: October 8, 2009
David Price
Dr. David Price, chair of the Department of Family Medicine

McMaster University has developed a comprehensive, secure, web-based and open source electronic health records system which is ready to be rolled out across Canada.

The electronic medical record system called OSCAR is used by over 600 Canadian doctors in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, including 450 family physicians in Ontario using the system for 650,000 patients.

"In Ontario there are approximately 8,000 family physicians that are not using electronic medical record systems. All these physicians could have OSCAR implemented within the next 24 months, and the cost would be less than $20 million," said Dr. David Price, chair of the Department of Family Medicine of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University where OSCAR was developed.

"OSCAR has been developed by doctors for use by the whole health care team, including the patient and even the pharmacist. It brings better health care," he said. "Ontario and Canada are well behind the rest of the world in electronic health records, but this system lets us leapfrog."

What differentiates OSCAR from other electronic medical record systems is that it has no licensing fees, making it the most affordable full service electronic medical record system for all sizes of physician practices both in the community and in hospitals. As well, OSCAR can be set up on any computer systems with a web browser and, most importantly, the users own their own data.

OSCAR was developed by Dr. David Chan, an associate professor with McMaster’s Department of Family Medicine, with colleagues at McMaster, McGill University and the University of Toronto. A not-for-profit consortium is being established by a number of universities to roll out OSCAR to physicians across Canada.

"We are not out to make money but to improve the way people experience health care in Canada and around the world," said Dr. Chan. "OSCAR’s community of users sincerely believes in the power of technology to enrich people’s lives."

OSCAR is customizable to accommodate a wide variety of language, clinical, research and education needs. The system was among the first electronic medical record systems to pass conformance testing (Version 3.0 through Ontario MD) and has the same security level as on-line banking systems.

The flexibility of the OSCAR system was recently demonstrated in both Hamilton and Montreal with the implementation of a daily H1N1 update. Each day public health departments in these city receive a summary – from those doctors with OSCAR – of the number of patients who came in with flu-like symptoms that day.

OSCAR has several applications which have been designed to help improve patient care, including the ability of patients to access their own health record and the ability of pharmacists and physicians to network directly.

These applications are built in free open source software, allowing them to be downloaded, used and modified as required. The following highlights the five different OSCAR components:

  • OSCAR — an electronic medical record system for clinic operations (includes charting, reporting, appointments, billings, encounters, prescriptions, laboratory results, etc.)
  • MyOSCAR — a patient-controlled electronic health record developed in partnership with Harvard/MIT
  • MyDRUGRef — a network for pharmacists and physicians to facilitate knowledge transfer of drug information. It is also fully integrated with the OSCAR electronic medical record.
  • OSCAR Resource — a compilation of clinical resources which can be accessed through the electronic medical record.
  • OSCAR CAISI — a case management, bed management and program facility management system already being used by major hospital corporations in both Toronto and Ottawa.

As the system was designed by a university, OSCAR also accommodates needs for medical learners and for clinical research projects. Originally developed for family physicians, it is being adapted for use by specialists.

Both new and current users of the OSCAR system were invited to attend demonstrations being held today and tomorrow at the Stonechurch Family Health Centre.

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