CIUSSS West-Central MontrealMarch 2023

For Mike Shulha, transforming fresh ideas into responsive software is crucial in building Connected Health Record

CIUSSS’s mega-project will enable staff to devote more time to caring for users

Amazing, but true: In an era of stunning technological advances, clinical staff still spend a great deal of time entering and re-entering the same information about patients into their records, even within the same healthcare facility.

Though situations like this one are not uncommon elsewhere in Quebec and Canada, Mike Shulha is visibly excited as he discusses the solution to this situation: the Connected Health Record (CHR), a mega-project that’s about to revolutionize the way the CIUSSS’s medical data is recorded, stored, retrieved, displayed and shared.

“For each patient, one record follows the patient along the full trajectory of care in a single digital system that brings our care teams and patients together—that’s our vision,” says Mr. Shulha, User Experience Lead for the CHR, and Associate to the Director of Digital Health.

“Our objective is to produce an application that allows staff to spend less time with screens and computers, and more time re-engaging in the human interactions of health care,” he explains.

The Connected Health Record is a complex undertaking that will be developed and implemented over the next several years. Its goal is to make consistent, updated information about each user easily available to staff on a single digital platform in all CIUSSS sites.

Currently, staff use many separate, older, self-contained computer systems that have difficulty interfacing with one another. As a result, it can be difficult and labour-intensive for staff to find the information they need and share it among various CIUSSS sites.

When all of the data about each user is eventually centralized in the CHR, care teams will have the most accurate and up-to-date information at their fingertips, making it easier for them to arrive at thoughtful, well informed decisions about each user’s care.

In leading the CIUSSS’s Clinical Informatics team, and as the User Experience Lead for the CHR project, Mr. Shulha collaborates with member of the team on daily basis to work with clinical practitioners and administrative staff in all of the CIUSSS’s directorates and services.

More about the Connected Health Record

Interested in reading about the CHR in more detail? The following JGH News articles explore the major improvements that the CHR will bring to the safety of users and the daily routines of staff.

“Our team’s goal,” Mr. Shulha says, “is to thoroughly examine and understand the daily realities and varying workflows of staff who provide care to users. Together with our development partners at Harris Healthcare, we’re reimagining how those elements might exist in a modern system like the CHR.”

Harris Healthcare is the Canadian partner that’s collaborating with the CIUSSS on developing the CHR’s software.

“The idea is not to build something in isolation for a couple of years and then present it to our clinicians. We want them see it from the very earliest stage to the final stage, which means they’ll be participating in the design of the software. It’ll be built for and by clinicians and administrators for the realities of our CIUSSS within Quebec’s healthcare system.

“My focus is on trying to make sure everyone’s great ideas on upgrading the quality of health care end up in the hands of Harris’s software design teams.”

To illustrate what else the CHR will be capable of doing, Mr. Shulha offers these examples:

  • A key principle of the CHR is to “enter information once and re‑use it.” This will save a great deal of time, while simplifying and automating the process of producing statistics and reporting to the Ministry of Health and Social Services. 
  • Though some CIUSSS sites already have electronic record systems, finding the right information about a user’s care can often be difficult and time‑consuming. As a remedy, the CHR will offer the care teams a hassle-free, Google-like search experience when they need to find relevant information or initiate tasks such as ordering tests or prescriptions.
  • In large, busy facilities, it can often be tough for members of staff to reach specific individuals in particular care teams to ask questions or clarify the details of a user’s care plan. That’s why the CHR will support integrated real-time chat and other communication features. Eventually, it will also support users by sharing healthcare information on a patient portal.

Helping to introduce these sorts of major improvements is highly appealing to Mr. Shulha, who feels he’s “good at listening to people talk about their challenges and how they’d like to work. Ultimately, I’m involved in optimizing and building the software that will support them.”

Mr. Shulha has spent over 15 years working in—and adjacent to—the CIUSSS. He began his association with the JGH in 2007 as a research assistant to Dr. Roland Grad at the Goldman Herzl Family Practice Centre. There he worked in various positions, eventually playing a key role in implementing the Centre’s electronic medical record.

In parallel, Mr. Shulha completed the research for his Ph.D. by focusing on improving the collaboration of care and sharing information among primary care physicians, oncologists and patients in the context of care for survivors.

He then served as Director of Operations at Medfar Clinical Solutions, the vendor that had supplied Herzl’s electronic record during a significant transformation of the underlying technological platform of Herzl’s system.

“Ultimately, however, I came to realize that my heart was really in the public side of things and that’s what pulled me back,” says Mr. Shulha, who joined the CIUSSS’s Digital Health team in 2019.

JGH Foundation provides crucial support for the CHR

Developing the Connected Health Record, along with its many benefits for healthcare users, would not be possible without essential support from the JGH Foundation.

Donations can be made online to support any of the JGH’s programs and services.

“When I met Dr. Justin Cross, the Chief Digital Health Officer, it was immediately clear that we had a shared vision for what software can accomplish for health care.”

What’s most rewarding about his work, Mr. Shulha says, is that “even though I’m not a clinician, I feel I’m able to contribute to patient care in my own way.

“I get really excited about my role in providing clinicians with superior tools that give them better insights into what they’re trying to do. It’s very satisfying to have such an incredible opportunity to make a difference.”

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