Q&A with Dr. Bruce Hobson

By Dr. Bruce HobsonNews

BruceAbout Dr. Bruce Hobson

Dr. Bruce Hobson has been a family practitioner in Powell River, BC, for 34 years. He has a passion for technology-enhanced adult learning and education. He is actively involved with the Practice Support Program and is working in integrating the PSP modules into electronic form and integrating the tools and resources into electronic medical records. He is also working with Doctors of BC IMIT Clinical Advisory Group and as a peer mentor optimizing the use of electronic medical records in physicians’ offices.

As the chair of the Health Data Coalition, he is leading efforts to maximize the use of physician EMR data to better inform physicians and health organizations about improving the delivery of health care and population health outcomes.

The HDC challenge is to improve patient outcomes through connections.

pie-chartOnly 23% of Canadian physicians routinely receive and review data on clinical outcomes.
file-cabinetEstimated 80% of all healthcare information is in EMRs in physician offices.
location-markers35 divisions of family practice in more than 230 communities are not connected.

In this Q&A, Dr. Hobson answers some of the commonly asked questions about HDC.

Q: First some context. It seems the medical profession is under the microscope like never before. What are your thoughts on the challenges as a physician?

A: In today’s political and fiscal climate, pressures are increasing to link the quality of health structures, processes and outcomes to payments, and to improve the quality of services delivered to patients. This represents a significant need for physicians and our functional organizations to engage in measurable quality improvement processes, beyond the traditional CME credit hours.

BC has initiated a powerful push in the direction of a Health Quality Agenda. Furthermore, it has recommended data fields and standards at a practice and case management level in order to “ensure accurate and timely business intelligence for understanding service demand trends”. While this comes from a discussion paper, these statements are strong indications of the increased role that quality measures will have in all health care changes in the future.

Q: In the simplest of terms, what exactly is the Health Data Coalition?

A: It is a toolset that enables physicians to make meaningful use of Electronic Medical Record (EMR) data and provides feedback so the physician can reflect on his or her practice and to improve patient care. It connects physician EMRs in real-time across the province to ultimately help improve patient and population health outcomes. The data will allow physicians to reflect on the care that they are delivering and identify gaps, barriers and opportunities for improvement.

Q: How is HDC unique?

A: We are first and foremost a grassroots organization, physician driven and governed. So there’s a real sense of ownership. Nine of the 10 HDC board members are physicians and we are funded by the General Practice Services Committee (GPSC), a partnership of the Government of BC and Doctors of BC.
Our technology solution is open source and our specific technical approach hasn’t been done before across EMR agnostic platforms. Finally, we offer a collaborative effort across all levels of the system.

Q: What problem is HDC trying to solve?

A: Two things. To address the lack of access to physician EMR data at all levels and to help address the general lack of a physician culture to use data to inform quality improvement processes. I am a physician and I know how busy our lives are and how complicated technology can seem. HDC is here to help support our profession, otherwise I wouldn’t be involved in this work.

Q: How can involvement with HDC help me?

A: HDC uses aggregated data from a distributed network and there is no use of patient-identifiable data. As well, we offer understandable data in response to meaningful, practical and clinical questions at multiple levels. We respect the confidentiality and privacy of both patient and physician data. And the data being used is for quality improvement purposes.
When you add it all up, we believe our work will lead to better use and understanding of information in doctors’ EMRs, and positive changes in patient and population outcomes, improvements in the lives of doctors and patients, and that the work will advance the sustainability of the health system: what’s called the triple aim.

Q: How is HDC aligned with government and doctor’s priorities?

A: I think we’re bang on. The HDC supports a learning health system and is designed to aggregate patient level data from individual physician practices, across disparate EMRs. Think of this data as a feedback mechanism with multiple benefits: to support self-reflective practice for the individual physician member, as well as evaluation of PSP learning modules, small group peer learning, division-led and provincial projects and BC Ministry of Health system planning and population metrics.