Doctor lauded for epic efforts

Prince George is home to a healthcare superhero as Dr. Bill Clifford took home the top individual honour this week at the Excellence in B.C. Health Care awards.

Clifford, the chief medical information officer at Northern Health, beat out nominees from six other health authorities to take home the provincial health care hero award. He was recognized for his work over the past two decades on electronic medical records management.

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"I was really surprised," Clifford said Tuesday, a day after picking up his Golden Apple award in Vancouver. "The winners from the other health authorities were doing some pretty amazing stuff. When we're up here in the north, sometimes we put our head down and work and take it for granted people won't be paying that much attention to what we're doing, so when this happened I was very surprised."

According to Clifford, the electronic records help physicians on two levels: when they're seeing patients by providing clinical decision making support and on a practice level by giving doctors general information on patient health trends.

"First at the patient level, it guides you with information in real time to help with the patient visit and at the practice level it guides you about the overall care you're providing and where improvements can be made," Clifford explained.

He said the records can also prevent patients from falling through the cracks by altering physicians about missed appointments or holes in follow up care.

The next step for the electronic records is securely sharing information between different clinics - for instance sending referral and consulting letters back and forth electronically.

"That's in the works and will be ready to deploy from any [electronic records system] to any other [electronic records system]," Clifford said.

At the same time, Clifford and others are developing a way for doctors to compare aggregate information about their practice to regional averages. For instance it could allow a physician to compare how well his diabetic patients are managing their conditions with the general trends in northern B.C. He said the tool is aimed for internal use within the medical community and not a means for the general public to compare doctors.

"You can invite people to be your data friend, but unless you make the invitation it's for your use only to compare to the big group," Clifford said, adding Northern Health could also track the trends to better deploy resources.

Meanwhile, two of Northern Health's programs also received recognition at the health awards.

The Stop HIV/AIDS program walked away with a golden apple for top prize in the collaborative solutions category and men's health program took home an award of merit in the innovation category.

Organized by the Health Employers Association of B.C, the excellence awards have been around since 2007 to honour work done by employees in the publicly funded healthcare sector.

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