The venue for the Desmond Fatality Inquiry sits empty in Guysborough, N.S., Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. An expert in electronic patient records told an inquiry today that the systems Nova Scotia uses to keep track of patient files are "antiquated" and in need of a significant upgrade. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Desmond inquiry: expert says Nova Scotia’s health records system is ‘antiquated’

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — The systems Nova Scotia uses to keep track of medical records are “antiquated” and in need of a significant upgrade, an expert in electronic patient records told an inquiry Friday.

Alyson Lamb, a clinical nursing informatics officer, was called to testify before the inquiry investigating why former soldier Lionel Desmond — a veteran of the war in Afghanistan — killed three family members and himself four years ago.

The inquiry has heard Desmond was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011 while serving in the military in New Brunswick, and returned home to Nova Scotia as a veteran in August 2016.

Several health-care professionals have told the inquiry they had difficulty accessing Desmond’s medical records after he moved to Nova Scotia and sought medical help for worsening symptoms of PTSD and depression.

Lamb told the inquiry Nova Scotia currently uses a number of patient information systems, some of which date back to the 1980s. She said most of these systems are not electronically linked, which she says makes it difficult for health-care practitioners in different communities to share patient files.

“If you were to draw it (on paper), it often looks like spaghetti on plate,” Lamb said. “There’s so many systems with feeds going everywhere.”

As well, she said Nova Scotia is in the process of procuring an informatics system that will allow for full integration of all patient records.

Lamb said the One Person One Record project has been in the works for several years and is still years away from full implementation. “That is the long-term plan,” she testified, adding that Alberta is in the process of implementing a similar system.

The new internet-based system would allow patients to gain access to their own health records through their smartphones, she said. This patient portal would also allow people to share their health records with health-care providers in other jurisdictions.

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