LEGAL/POLICY

Ontario To Scrap iPHIS And Roll Out New System

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The Ontario government will spend US$20 million to replace its outdated disease reporting system. The integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS) was implemented in 2005 and still relies on fax machines and manual inputting of the data.

“More effective and efficient case and contact management will ensure that we are able to stop the spread of COVID-19 as we gradually reopen the province,” said Health Minister and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott.

The new solution will be cloud-based and designed to more quickly trace and analyze COVID-19 infections, the Toronto Star reported.

The 15-year-old iPHIS platform has come under fire for delays and under-reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Ontario. Already, two municipalities – Toronto and Ottawa – have dropped the system and implemented solutions of their own.

Officials say the new, Ontario-wide system will ensure the province’s local health units can begin case investigation and contact tracing no more than three days after a patient first provides a sample for testing.

Currently, testing labs cannot enter patients’ results directly into iPHIS. Results are instead sent to the health units – commonly in batches sent by fax – after which the patient data must be painstakingly entered by hand, a step that can take days.

According to an Ontario government news release, the new case and contact management system will integrate with COVID-19 lab results from the Ontario Laboratory Information System (OLIS) data, making current processes significantly more efficient and reducing administrative burden for public health unit staff.

Ministry officials said the new system, custom-built on the Salesforce platform, will be rolled out over the next two months, with three local health units testing it in July and a broader rollout by mid-August.

Due to the urgent need for an IT solution, the system was not put out to tender, according to a provincial spokesperson.

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