Log In

Reset Password

OBA weighs in on hospital communications issues

The Acute Care Wing of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (File photograph)

Communication snags between Bermuda’s hospital and the island’s physicians send “a chilling message that we have to do better; no excuses are warranted”, the Opposition has contended.

However, the Bermuda Hospitals Board said it had retained a physician advisory council to participate in the continuing development of its electronic medical record, Pearl, for more than a year.

“Community and BHB physicians are represented to collaborate on optimising our ability to share highly confidential medical information about our patients,” the BHB said.

“The public should be reassured that BHB only uses secure methods of transmitting their medical information.”

The hospital said it needed any physicians encountering difficulties to get in touch over the issue.

“The requirements of the Personal Information Privacy Act do need to be complied with, and this is a good thing for Bermuda.

“Within healthcare, an individual’s medical information should always be protected to the highest standards available.”

The BHB added: “The onus is on us in healthcare, in the hospitals and community to work together and find solutions that safeguard medical information while making it as easy as possible for physicians to care for their patients.

The communications hurdle, reported on Monday in The Royal Gazette, was said to be the fault of the BHB’s switch away from traditional avenues of communication with doctors.

A physician who highlighted the issue last month with R. Scott Pearman, the BHB chief executive, said increasingly stringent privacy laws with the coming into force of Pipa at the beginning of 2025 would likely complicate communications further.

Mr Pearman, who spoke at the quarterly Docs for Dinner gathering of Bermuda’s physicians, acknowledged “challenges”, but assured doctors that the BHB was bracing for the Pipa regime.

He said technological advances afforded new communication options between the hospital and physicians through secure channels preserving patient confidentiality.

However, Mr Pearman added that “the hospital and local physicians still have to do their part”.

The doctor who spoke with the Gazette last week on condition of anonymity said that in some cases it had taken families to pass on the notification that a patient had died.

Susan Jackson, the shadow health minister, responded to the issue on Monday, saying it was “disheartening” to see a GP expressing “ongoing frustration regarding ineffective communication from King Edward VII Memorial Hospital”.

“The One Bermuda Alliance has been speaking about the challenges in healthcare on the island for a while and the Government has failed to do anything to address a number of them.

“The fact that the there is a breakdown where it comes to healthcare communication is alarming.”

The OBA vowed in the Reply to the Budget in February that it would reverse the Progressive Labour Party’s block grant for the hospital in favour of a fee-for-service model.

The Opposition has also taken the BHB to task in recent months on issues ranging from water-supply problems that affected dialysis services to paperwork delays last year that impeded the hiring of new nurses.

Ms Jackson called on Kim Wilson, the health minister, to “speak up and say what is being done to make sure the GP’s concerns are acknowledged and addressed”.

She added: “The community needs comfort in knowing that his concerns are not falling on deaf ears.

“It’s totally unacceptable that a doctor, who cares for a patient, finds out from outside of the hospital that their patient has passed away.

“It’s certainly not the way we would expect our healthcare system to run.

“If we cannot communicate within the medical community, how can we make fundamental changes to healthcare?”

The BHB insisted that the old methods of communication, via private e-mails and fax, fell short of “the highest level of safeguarding patient data”.

“As we work through making improvements, we have continued faxing to community physician offices, so there has been no cut-off of available patient information through older systems.

“Faxing is not perfect, however. There can be issues with transmission, or risks of paper running out at the receiver end or getting lost in the community offices. This is why their use is being phased out in other countries such as the UK.”

The BHB said e-mail and messaging could be used on secure platforms.

“Many family doctors now have their own electronic medical records and we are already in the early stages of implementing an integration engine that will allow the different EMRs in these offices to connect more directly with Pearl.

“The BHB has also hosted two community physician workshops over the past year to assist them with using BHB systems and Pearl.

“We certainly want to hear from any physicians who are having issues receiving or sharing information with us at BHB. We already are in contact with certain offices and site visits are arranged if there are issues that can’t be resolved remotely.

“Prior to the question being tabled to the chief executive at Docs for Dinner, the BHB was aware of the particular concern voiced and our team had committed to support with a solution.”

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published April 04, 2024 at 8:21 am (Updated April 04, 2024 at 8:21 am)

OBA weighs in on hospital communications issues

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon