In an effort to improve the safety and effectiveness of public health services delivered to their children, the Siksika and Stoney First Nations are now using GS1 2D DataMatrix barcode technology for their immunizations. This comes just two weeks after Sanofi Pasteur announced it was the first vaccine manufacturer to add this technology to its vaccines manufactured and sold in Canada. The two First Nations health centres are expected to be joined by those in Kehewin, Frog Lake, Eden Valley, Cold Lake, Bigstone, Calling Lake, and Piikani within the next month. The results from these new immunization technologies will be studied by national health researchers for potential implementation across Canada.
This move, coupled with the communities' recent transition from paper-based immunization records to a specially-developed cyber-application, is expected to greatly cut down on vaccination errors, while easing the workflow of healthcare staff. Implementing the GS1 bar code standard on commercially available vaccines to improve their management and delivery is a key component of Canada's National Immunization Strategy. The Siksika and Stoney health centres will be among the first in the world to use vaccine barcode scanning to automatically record information, such as the vaccine type, lot number, dose and expiry date at the time of vaccination. This is expected to eliminate data entry error, which has been shown to be as high as 20% in registries that rely on manual inputting.
"This initiative is an example of First Nations leading in innovation and partnership, and setting the bar for the rest of the health system," says Tyler White, CEO of Siksika Health Services.
Siksika and Stoney First Nations were the first to join the Community Health & Immunization Program (CHIP), a flexible, secure and simple system for electronically managing patients' vaccination records. "CHIP was developed to address a longstanding public health disparity. First Nations in Alberta have high rates of patients under- and over-immunized because of an incomplete, inaccurate, and antiquated approach to vaccination records," says Dr. Salim Samanani, Medical Director of OKAKI, which created CHIP in partnership with First Nations communities. "With the addition of 2D bar code scanning, we continue to approach the goal of creating the safest, most effective and cutting edge immunization program for the protection of child and public health."
"Having CHIP and the 2D barcode scanning system will improve immunization delivery in our community, reduce missed opportunities and the amount of error in vaccine records, and free up valuable time for our healthcare workers," adds Darlene Richter, Manager of Nursing at the Stoney Health Centre.
Despite First Nations experiencing substantially higher rates of vaccine-preventable diseases than the rest of Albertans, vaccinations delivered in First Nations health centres were the only ones in the province still recorded on paper. Alberta's immunization registry is supposed to have a complete record of vaccinations given to all Albertans, but immunizations delivered to First Nations children within their communities remain absent. OKAKI is working with Alberta Health & Wellness to remedy this situation, by enabling CHIP to seamlessly communicate with the provincial registry.
CHIP was launched in September 2011, with start-up assistance and funding from Cybera. Additional sponsorship from Pfizer Canada Inc helped CHIP expand to nine First Nations health centres in less than six months. Terry Gunter, Director, Vaccines Business Unit at Pfizer Canada, says, "Pfizer is very proud to have been able to partner with OKAKI to develop innovative solutions to help improve the health outcomes for First Nations in Alberta."
"I am very pleased to see how quickly and effectively CHIP has been adopted across First Nations communities," adds Robin Winsor, President and CEO of Cybera. "This demonstrates the benefits that cloud and data management technologies can bring to our quality of life. As a supporter of innovation in Alberta, Cybera hopes to continue to foster this and other projects that are adding to quality of life in the province. Healthier Albertans make for a healthier economy."
Fifty thousand vaccinations (including historical records) have so far been captured in CHIP, and are already showing that immunization rates are even lower than previously reported. These inaccuracies are to be expected, given the manual collection and aggregation methods previously used, which made it difficult for health staff to easily and effectively identify and contact patients requiring vaccination. OKAKI continues to develop information tools that will help public health nurses reach all eligible First Nations children.
With support from Sanofi Pasteur, the Automated Identification of Vaccine Products Advisory Group of PHAC (the Public Health Agency of Canada), and PCIRN (PHAC/ Canadian Institutes of Health Research Influenza Research Network), CHIP has now been modified to use 2D barcodes at the time of vaccination. PCIRN will be studying the impact of barcode scanning at the point of care in vaccination settings, including the Siksika and Stoney health centres, to facilitate the implementation of this technology in health services across Canada.
"Sanofi Pasteur is honored to be a partner on this initiative," says Mark Lievonen, President of Sanofi Pasteur Limited. "The 2D bar code is an important enabling technology, which unlocks endless possibilities when used with innovative health record software solutions. This initiative is an important step in translating an idea into a product or services that can help reduce overall healthcare costs while improving patient care. I hope the outcome of this unique partnership will be leveraged throughout Canada."
"Ideally, this system will be shared with provincial health units and First Nations communities across Canada," says Gisele Gagne, Nurse in Charge at the Kehewin Health Centre. "But even if it is not, the difference it is making for our community has already been dramatic."
About OKAKI Health Intelligence
OKAKI is a social enterprise with a mission to achieve positive health and social impact, by transforming service partners' ability to manage and use information effectively. OKAKI provides comprehensive public health information services, assisting clients with harnessing information to be critical, to gain insights, to learn and improve what they do and how they do it. OKAKI supports First Nations communities with all technical aspects of CHIP implementation, including project management, privacy, analytic, application development and hosting services.
Cybera is a not-for-profit organization that works to spur and support innovation, for the economic benefit of Alberta, through the use of cyberinfrastructure. Cybera collaborates with public and private partners to accelerate research and product development in priority areas such as health, energy, environment, and emerging technologies. Cybera operates CyberaNet, a high-speed high-bandwidth advanced network in Alberta, and provides project management services to WestGrid / Compute Canada, a consortium that provides advanced computing in support of research across Canada.
About Sanofi Pasteur
Sanofi, aglobal and diversified healthcare leader, discovers, develops and distributes therapeutic solutions focused on patients' needs. Sanofi has core strengths in the field of healthcare with seven growth platforms: diabetes solutions, human vaccines, innovative drugs, rare diseases, consumer healthcare, emerging markets and animal health.Sanofi is listed in Paris (EURONEXT: SAN) and in New York (NYSE: SNY).
Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi, provides more than 1 billion doses of vaccine each year, making it possible to immunize more than 500 million people across the globe. A world leader in the vaccine industry, Sanofi Pasteur offers the broadest range of vaccines protecting against 20 infectious diseases. The company's heritage, to create vaccines that protect life, dates back more than a century. Sanofi Pasteur is the largest company entirely dedicated to vaccines. Every day, the company invests more than EUR 1 million in research and development.
The Automated Identification of Vaccine Projects Advisory Task Group is co-chaired by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the vaccine industry. This group was established to provide leadership, direction, advice and support for the development and voluntary implementation of bar codes on vaccine products in Canada. The Advisory Task Group is comprised of representation from manufacturers, provincial jurisdictions, health authorities, health professional associations, regulators, international standard setting agencies, and electronic health records and clinical management software developers.
PCIRN is a national network of influenza vaccine researchers, develops and tests methodologies related to the evaluation of influenza vaccines as they pertain to safety, immunogenicity and effectiveness, and program implementation and evaluation. PCIRN is funded by a grant from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and was established in 2009. Currently more than 90 investigators at 30 institutions across Canada are involved in the network.