July 20, 2024

The Queens County Citizen

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The dialog will answer you | When will the damn hospital cards disappear?

The dialog will answer you |  When will the damn hospital cards disappear?

“Why should hospitals still issue their own hospital card when we have a health insurance card? » -Stephan S.

Ah, hospital cards! Look around your home and you will surely find quite a collection. At home, family members rest in a metal container given to me when I finished my studies at Polytechnique Montreal. (Yes, I emptied the beer I used to celebrate my diploma there first.)

The subject is less anecdotal than it appears. Hospital cards are actually a symptom of the obsolescence of our health network, its fragmentation and difficulty in transmitting information.

These are the evils that the Minister of Health, Christian Dubey, is trying to address, especially with the imminent adoption of a digital health file. In Quebec, we are also told that hospital cards are disappearing as a result of the modernization of the network.

Say we won’t get down on our knees to sing “Don’t Leave Me” when they fade. It’s the classic “Na Na Na Na Hey Hey-Hey Goodbye,” popular among sports fans, that’s likely to be heard.

What is hospital card used for? Here is what I understand from the explanations given to me.

“Our current information systems require a unique file number for our establishment. This file number is generated by the creation of the hospital card,” explains Jean-Nicolas Aube, representative of the CIUSSS du Center-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.

But why not generate this file number from the health insurance card? To this question, it seems to me a very fair answer: because it has been so in the past and it has become difficult to change.

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“These cards were created historically because each hospital had its own way, especially with paper files that went electronic. The goal of hospital cards is to reduce the time needed to identify each document in a paper file,” the Ministry of Health and Social Services explained to me.

The cards are also used to “locate/identify” the paper documentation that a patient goes to the hospital with, Jean-Nicolas Aube explained to me. If you look at the hospital card, you will see that information is embedded on it. By pressing the paper against the card, information can be transferred to it.

It is reasonable to assume that such technology would have impressed a copying monk from the Middle Ages. For 2023 Quebec citizens, it’s less certain.

But the biggest problem is that since each hospital has its own maps and its own numbering system, information gets stuck in one establishment and is poorly transmitted across the network. This means that your medical file today is scattered among the clinics, hospitals and health professional offices you have visited during your lifetime.

Every time a new employee enters your file, they see only a fraction of your medical history, just as a motorist tries to drive with only a fraction of his windshield defrosted.

To see things more clearly and learn, for example, what interventions you have already encountered, this worker must increase the number of requests, send and receive faxes (another clear sign of disutility…). This is a huge waste of time and compromises the quality of care.

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If there is any good news in this, Health Minister Christian Dubey is aware of the problem. Act 5, passed in the spring, “Easing Traffic […] Information so they can follow people with concerns on their care journey.

A digital health record that will replace the current fragmented record is also an important step that spells the end of hospital cards. It will first be implemented in pilot projects at CIUSSS in Maurice-Centre-du-Québec and Nord-de-l’Ile-de-Montreal.

“Unique authentication of users and stakeholders opens the door to the disappearance of hospital cards for everything included in the digital health record,” Health Ministry spokesperson Marie-Claude Lacasse told me.

Photo by Philippe Bovin, Law Press Archives

At CHUM in Montreal, there are already no more hospital cards. Patient identification is done with health insurance card.

Proof that we should remain hopeful despite the monster that is our health network: at CHUM in Montreal, no more hospital cards!

“All systems are configured with a health insurance card and we are able to link the patient’s file number to their Sun card,” spokeswoman Andre-Anne Toussaint wrote to me.

I hear you shout: “Hallelujah! »

It’s troubling that in 2023, an anachronism like a hospital card is still the key to accessing care. As for when I could empty the vaguely Soviet-looking red, blue and burgundy cards that had accumulated there, all bets were off.

One thing is certain, this date most likely corresponds to the date when our healthcare system can be said to have entered the modern age.

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